Our Lady Shares Her Gift
Our Lady is, in the language of tradition, “Spouse of the Holy Spirit.” And yet, as St. Maximilian Kolbe and Pope John Paul II observed, to say “spouse,” though it is the deepest of human relationships, is still far from describing the degree of union between Our Lady and the Holy Spirit. Pope John Paul, in his apostolic letter on the Rosary, defines Our Lady as the “Sanctuary of the Holy Spirit,” precisely in referring to the Visitation. This union between Our Lady and the Holy Spirit is something for which we have no analogy. Here on this holy ground, the language of human experience fails us. Language can only point beyond what we can fathom, toward the full gift of Our Lady.
But Our Lady’s relationship with the Holy Spirit is not something she keeps for herself. It is entirely for her children, and as Scripture shows us, she is more than able to dispense these gifts abundantly.
Let us return to Luke’s account of the Visitation (see Lk 1:39-56). Elizabeth has conceived in her old age, and is to give birth to a son who will be the forerunner of the Messiah. Even though she has miraculously conceived, she is still in need of help. She has been feeling the weight of her own fragility for some months already when Mary unexpectedly arrives at her door, calling out Elizabeth’s name. Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice, and she discovers a spiritual revolution taking place within her:
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Lk 1:41-44 NIV)
What does this tell us? First of all, that there is an extraordinary anointing of the Holy Spirit on Our Lady’s person, even on her voice. What Elizabeth discovered, and Mother Teresa after her, is that this anointing on Our Lady’s presence is transmitted even when it is not sought or consciously attended to. For Our Lady’s presence to be effective in our lives, even as for Mother Teresa or Elizabeth or the saints, she needs only to be welcomed and wanted, whether or not we are consistently conscious of her presence.
The Visitation demonstrates Our Lady’s role not only in the life of Elizabeth, and of Mother Teresa, but of every disciple. At Mary’s approach, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. Not because she lacked the Holy Spirit until then: the Spirit was already working miraculously in her life in the conception of John. But with the coming of Our Lady, there was a new and fuller outpouring of the Spirit, giving Elizabeth new energy and new hope for her task. The unborn life within her and her responsibility for it, a burden and source of worry until now, has suddenly become full of joy. What had caused her fatigue is now giving energy. The child in my womb leaped for joy : She is no longer carrying him; he is carrying her.
Beyond that, Elizabeth is given new gifts. Elizabeth was not a prophetess; yet once Our Lady enters her life, she is given the spirit of prophecy. She is the first to proclaim not only that the Messiah is present, but that he is the Son of God: Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Who told her that her young cousin was to be mother of the Lord, something of which even Joseph was ignorant? All of this happened through Mary’s presence. So we are on scripturally sound terrain when we attest to the gifts of the Spirit that Our Lady poured into Mother Teresa, and when we declare these miracles of grace her reason for giving Our Lady “all her confidence.”
- by Fr. Joseph Langford, Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady