19 May Espoused by the Holy Spirit
Do we know that, relationships play a pivotal role in the way we view this world, which has a great effect on the way we (as Christians) behave? In parallel, being espoused by the Holy Spirit, Mary was also influenced by this relationship, which shaped her view of the world and her resulting actions.
(I) How our outlook is configured…
The brain/mind is a super computer, continuously decoding or interpreting everything, in order for us to process things. But, to execute decoding, it must be fed with a set of rules/conditions; these rules, are commonly known as experience.
Being emotional beings, we need to know that because our first language (from birth) has been emotions, this is how we learn best. So, our major experience does not come from knowledge in engaging with books or office work but from relationships. Dealing with intelligent emotional beings like parents, siblings, our spouse, supervisors, we spend hours with them, spread over a period of years. Each of them are from different walks of life, with their own temperament, opinions, reactions, etc, which creates a strong influence in our life.
- Relating to our spouse and how it shapes our outlook…
Consummation i.e. Knowing one’s spouse:
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…” (Genesis 4:1)
The people of the Old Testament would refer to a physical union (especially for the first time), as the knowing of their spouse.
“Knowing” carries such a profound meaning, because it is more than just coming to intimately know the other physically. This knowing is symbolic; pointing to a bigger picture – a lifelong important journey of intimately discovering, a spouse’s heart and nature through their “for better” and “for worse” moments.
Living with another person, their lifestyle (external factors like places, food/drink, dress sense/style and social circles), likes and dislikes, not only brings you to know the other’s way of life but also become a part of it! Unless you wish to start marriage on the wrong foot, it is never a good idea, not to share in the life and lifestyle of your spouse (except for certain harmful ways).
Besides the external factors, it is his/her attitude, that over a period of time, creates a (new) “climate” (either good or bad or both) in your married life, which brings you under its control, unless you are emotionally very independent.
The nature, reactions and world of your spouse, will directly affect you, change some part of your character and your outlook on life and the way you see the world – positively or negatively.
Couples committed to each other through all seasons, grow to enjoy and even mime the other’s styles and characteristics. In fact, at times they are even mistaken as siblings, because of their similarities.
(II) The difference in being espoused by the Holy Spirit
Being sinless, Mary’s nature was filled with extra ordinary grace/ power from the Holy Spirit (from her Immaculate Conception) and thus she pleased the Father, like no one else. In outpouring gratitude (which naturally made her humble), she thirsted to return love to God in the fullest measure, longing to fulfill her Maker’s will and never offend Him (by sin), no matter how much she was tried.
- Knowing the Holy Spirit
Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I do not know a man?” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…. (Luke 1:34-35)
Mary was also accustomed to use this terminology “knowing a man”.
Though she did not understand everything, in faith she gave her fiat (let it be done) and the Holy Spirit instantly overshadowed her and she conceived. But that was not all…she also received a greater outpouring of Him and came to “know” her spouse.
- So what was it like to be espoused to the Holy Spirit?
- Exposed to God – Firstly, in knowing her Lord and master more, she came to experience and deeply appreciate God and His mysteries (to the point that a creature can, because no one can completely know God).
- The choice spouse – She came into a world of knowledge of the true nature of her spiritual spouse. What is this nature, we may wonder?
The scripture describes it in detail: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
It is a privilege, to know someone and even more, be espoused to Him, who has these virtues in His nature to offer (to the fullest measure), without anything negative in him!
Moreover, espousal of this kind, was a pledged friendship of the permanent gift of Himself, which also ushered her into superlative experiences. As He was the head, she lived under His influence as a perfect leader (He was never erroneous), perpetually positive, filled with hope and could never offend His beloved. A state of heaven on earth, is what existed within the confines of her soul.
- Her nature became more Divine – This knowledge, empowered her to build upon the fruit of the Spirit in her:
Filled with the Holy Spirit from conception, yet when she conceived Jesus, she was given a deeper endowment of her beloved Spouse and understanding from Him, not only about God but about herself! In doing so, we see a noticeable difference in Mary’s nature.
Prior to the angel’s visit, she had only been a homely (perhaps slightly timid) girl. Though very holy, we observe “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. So the angel told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.…” (Luke 1:29-30)”.
However she greatly fretted or became fearful when the angel told her that she was highly favored. Such a strong sense of disturbance was of human origin and not what God desired and thus the angel quickly advised her not to fear. For until the angel explained to Mary, she lacked the knowledge of who she was.
Moreover, all fear escaped her in coming to “know” the Holy Spirit and His nature when He came upon her and she conceived Jesus. Thereupon, her spouse endowed her with greater knowledge, the fruit of courage, boldness and joy. How do we know this?
In spite of her knowledge of the challenges of a pregnant unwedded teen, she visited an elderly pregnant Elizabeth, who may have been feeble, yet suddenly, spoke very audibly:
In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:42-43)
Mary does not shirk back (nor is greatly disturbed) or timidly thanks Elizabeth for the honourable greeting. But in her canticle she too exclaims a fact (that is true till today), “…For He has looked with favor on the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me.” (Luke 1:48-49)
She herself, boldly and with some knowledge about the future (given by the Holy Spirit about the coming generations), proclaims God’s greatness, declares her own identity, as the one who will for all generations be known as blessed. She does so, not boastfully, but confidently, from her interior knowing. This is how the fruit of fearlessness, matured in her.
In saying yes to the angel, she also started increasing and maturing in the character of God (fruits of the Spirit) courage, peace, joy, etc – yet these also came through being pruned with sufferings.
Furthermore, entering deeper into the world of God, His works, wonders and mysteries increasingly assisted her in attaining these virtues/fruit.
- Partnered with the Spirit – We note that certain spouses, over time, appear more to be like siblings in sharing each other’s nature and even tastes. This was what happened with the Virgin and her spiritual spouse, as she transcended more and more into His nature and worked for Him.
- In ecstasy of heaven – She was seen as Joseph’s wife (though he was like a brother and provider), but being espoused to the Holy Spirit, He filled her soul with such a sense of security (being loved by God) and His positive nature, that she was lost in His world. It was His world (more than anything of the external world), in her inner spirit, that she was fully tuned to. She truly lived in this world, but was totally not of it, as her sights were set (inwards), upon Him.
(III) Does that mean she had super powers to be unaffected by difficulties?
On the contrary! Simeon prophesized about her suffering, stating that the sword would pierce her soul.
Mary’s challenges included Joseph doubting her, escaping into Egypt, hurting because of the death of the holy innocents, the crucifixion, and much more (not Biblically recorded).
Her trials were worse for her, because if they are difficult to bear for a sinful person, how much more for an undeserving sinless person who had pure love and charity to all and ended up receiving a “betrayal” of sorts?! Hence, she needed more of the Spirit, to protect her Immaculate Heart.
Why does a nation tremble and shout for justice at protest rallies, when innocent people become victim to cruel torture (e.g. being sexually abused and burnt alive)? Well, seeing an ordinary person, undeservingly receive such brutality, is indigestible. It ignites fury, as it seems to literally and personally offend the masses, causing a communal restlessness, until justice is met. What more for Mary who had the duty of being painfully silent and endure seeing her sinless Son tortured, for the love He gave, knowing all the while, He was God Almighty.
For her to always respond to evil with good, is “impossible for man, but possible for God” (Luke 18:27). Grace gave her the ability to overcome the urge to retaliate or fall into temptation, making her so love God and desired a close bond with Him, that she was pained to go against His nature.
- Faith, peace, joy and hope:
The other great empowerment of this grace and infilling of the Holy Spirit, was that it gave her optimism and as a result, great faith in the face of negativity. How?
Just as praise and worship meetings are accompanied by signs and miracles that bring joy, encouragement, confidence in God, this was the environment within Mary’s soul. Unlike regular Christians, she held on to this, never letting it evaporate, when trials engulfed her.
Hope was what her Spouse firmly fixed her focus on. Under trials, she persisted in seeing the great good that was to come from the result of the sufferings Jesus, the apostles, John the Baptist and she would undergo.
Jesus also required this from the Holy Spirit, so He started with His ministry, fasting and was always steeped in prayer, especially at the end.
(IV) The Holy Spirit, commissioned her to serve, by sharing His goodness with others…
As she gave Him all room, in her soul, to do His work, by keeping herself sinless, all goodness and positivity flowed from His nature into her. Being in this climate of a blissful state of joy, knowledge, faith, etc, now equipped her to help others. He filled her with great love and longing to help them.
Though the new believers feared persecutions, since her Spouse is known as the greatest encourager; being empowered by Him, she also brought encouragement to others.
- Charisms vs Fruit
Mary is unique, as she is not only able to offer the benefit of the charisms of the Spirit but also help share in the fruit of the Spirit.
We know that the Spirit gives certain charisms to some people, like prophecies, healings, miracles, gift of knowledge etc – for service. We can expect that, when a healer prays over a person who is sick, with faith, he will be healed. Since Mary was holy, she may have also had many charisms.
Yet it is different with regard to the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Though it is used, to offer love, it cannot be shared, which means no gifted person, can lay hands on another to receive the fruit. Example: just because someone has the Holy Spirit’s fruit of generosity, it does not generally get passed onto another by the laying of hands.
If a person wants it, he needs to desire the fruit of generosity, also rely on the intercession of others, but has to make many sacrifices, prayers and cooperate with God, to receive this change. But it starts with repentance, if one was always tightfisted.
Only Jesus being God, could gift someone this.
The otherwise greedy tax collector Zaccheus, immediately and permanently received the fruit of generosity, the moment Jesus spoke His word to him. It made him repent and desire to give back to others up to four times as much as he had taken.
While Mary is not God to gift someone this fruit, she possessed it to such a high level that in her presence, the influence of this fruit or nature from within her, would powerfully radiate to another, bringing changes to them.
Six months pregnant, elderly Elizabeth, may have lacked joy and courage in her spirit and nature, to stay optimistic. She had kept her pregnancy secret and was therefore alone, lacking the needed support. To top it off, her husband was fully mute and in fact may have needed her help. But gloom departed when Mary’s joyful aura surrounded Elizabeth and fell upon the baby (who leapt with joy). Mary was to stay three months (almost till the end of Elizabeth’s pregnancy) because of this, from then on, Elizabeth was beaming with positivity.
The apostles too lived in fear after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. So Mary stayed with them, praying and once again, her aura of courage provided sustenance for them to keep together and pray, until the Holy Spirit endowed them and filled them with courage on Pentecost.
Many Marian seers/visionaries from the centuries totally changed their secular/ordinary way of life, after an experience of all the positivity that flowed from her. While she could not fill them with the fruit of the Spirit, she caused them to desire it, such that they were willing to change their life, to receive it and become saints in the process.
(IV) Have you also taken Him to be your spouse?
“For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name” (Isaiah 54:5)
For us too, to be in this world and not of it, is impossible for man but not God. The role of the third person of the Trinity, is to make it possible.
“…Receive the Holy Spirit…” (John 20:22)
Offer supplication and listen to Him, because He too can change the “climate” in your soul, and we must do all to preserve this climate, with His constant help. So what is it that He does for us?
It is only He who can relax our mind, clean our wounds, empower us and give us a vision of hope, which He calls us to duly act upon, to go from victory to victory.
It will not work, if we fail to act and neither can we be happy with ourselves, when one leg in one boat, while our other, is in the other boat. In the end, He does all this for our joy, so that we can receive the crown of life (Rev 2:10).
Mary is a great promoter of the Holy Spirit, has always assisted others and will help us too, to receive the gift of her Spouse more. Let us ask her, to especially intercede for us to receive, the Holy Spirit, as she did for the apostles.
Hail Mary, filled with the Holy Spirit, the Lord rejoices to rest in you.
O virgin mother, blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, endowed with joy, confidence and peace,
Pray for your pilgrim children, to receive these gifts,
Now and forever. Amen