When the Holy Spirit, the Author of life, entered and filled Mary’s being, something almost unthinkable took place: Jesus was conceived and became flesh. Of course, the Holy Spirit had prepared her for this moment, but it was only by her consent that it came to be, that it was consummated: “For the first time in the plan of salvation…the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men.”1 In taking on our human nature – becoming one of us – Jesus bridged the gap between heaven and earth, between the human and divine.
But something else remarkable took place that we sometimes overlook. In consenting to God’s plan, Mary became the bridge between our fallen humanity and perfection, between reality and the ideal. Because of the wondrous event of the Incarnation, Mary now shares a unique and intimate relationship with each person of the Holy Trinity – she is the daughter of God, the mother of Jesus, and the bride of the Holy Spirit.
While none of us is able to know God as intimately as Mary, in fostering our love for her, we can come to know Him much better. Like Jesus, we must also be “born of Mary.” We must come to see her as our own mother, grow to love her, and entrust our lives to her care. As St. Louis de Montfort tells us, devotion to Mary “is a perfect way to reach our Lord and be united to him, for Mary is the most perfect and the most holy of all creatures, and Jesus, who came to us in a perfect manner, chose no other road for his great and wonderful journey.”2
Mary wants to accompany us on our journey, and she’s perfectly suited to do so. She’s not only the ideal woman, she is the ideal person – the model for all humanity. What’s more, in seeking to imitate her life, we not only discover her virtues (why she was God’s chosen vessel), but we also get to know her mystical spouse, the Holy Spirit.
I didn’t understand the role of the Holy Spirit in her life – or mine – until I did a 33-day consecration to Mary this past year. Somehow in my relationship with God, I’d never explored, or even thought much about, the third person of the Trinity. God was my Creator and Father, Jesus was my brother and Saviour, but who, or what, was the Holy Spirit? Like a quiet middle child, He had gotten lost in the shuffle… But as I grew closer to Mary, my love for God also grew, and I sensed His Spirit gently at work.
As in any relationship, getting to know the Holy Spirit isn’t something that happens overnight. “Through his grace, the Holy Spirit is the first to awaken faith in us and to communicate to us the new life, which is to ‘know the Father and the one whom he has sent, Jesus Christ.’ But the Spirit is the last of the persons of the Holy Trinity to be revealed.”3
In our humanity, it’s hard for us to envision and understand One who is pure spirit; we don’t have words to adequately express this reality. Because of this intangibility, these limitations, the Holy Spirit seems elusive – even distant. Yet paradoxically, it’s the “part” of God closest to us: the One in whom “we live and move and have our being.”4 When we allow the Holy Spirit to take up rest in our souls, to possess us completely, we possess like Mary an unspeakable treasure. As Thomas à Kempis describes in The Imitation of Christ, “…he that hath the Spirit will find therein the hidden manna.”5
Mary wants nothing more than to lead us to the hidden manna that is her Son, Jesus. By meditating on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, in particular, we see the Holy Spirit at work in her life, the movement of grace in her soul. Our Blessed Mother wants to teach us, to show us the ways of God and how best to respond. In fact, she has been given to us for this very purpose. “We must obey her always and be led in all things by her spirit, which is the Holy Spirit of God.”6 What better way for our hearts and minds to be opened to the work of the Holy Spirit than through Mary…
- The Annunciation: First, like Mary, say “yes” to God. Invite the Holy Spirit to enter in, to come and take up residence. Be a gracious host by conversing with Him often – daily, even constantly. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love…
- The Visitation: Like Mary, learn to be docile to the Holy Spirit. Allow Him to direct and guide all our words and actions, so that we move outside of ourselves and place our lives at the service of others. What did Mary do immediately upon giving her consent? She set out to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. Less of me, Lord, and more of You…may I decrease as You increase.7
- The Birth of Our Lord: Like Mary, humbly conceive of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Receive Him lovingly and with reverence, and come to understand and believe that, in the Eucharist, His very Blood courses through ours. Jesus, You have given yourself to me in the Eucharist as food from heaven; You are the hidden manna, food for my soul. Consume me as I consume you. Fill my soul, O Fulfillment of my every desire.
- Presentation of Jesus: Like Mary, allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to the Church – to embrace all of its teachings with love and in humble obedience, trusting that the same Spirit that inspired it from the beginning continues to lead it today. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created, and You will renew the face of the earth.
- Finding Jesus at the Temple: Like Mary, find Jesus in His Church – in its teachings and sacraments, in the Word of God, and dwelling within every believer. Ponder in your heart the things you do not understand – life’s many questions – and allow the Holy Spirit to gently guide and enlighten you, trusting that all will be made clear when the time is right. Holy Spirit, shed Thy light in our souls…
Mary, Bride of the Holy Spirit, pray for us!
– Kelley Holy
1 CCC, 721.
2 St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary (London: Catholic Way Publishing, 2012), 159.
3 CCC, 684.
4 Acts 17:28
5 True Devotion to Mary, (Day 29), 166-167.
6 St. Louis de Montfort, #258, 170.
7 Cf. John 3:30