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The Spirit's special presence in the Blessed Virgin Mary

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, 18 April 1990 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. We have already seen that a correct and careful reading of the "event" of the incarnation reveals, along with the truth about Christ Man-God, also the truth about the Holy Spirit. The truth about Christ and the truth about the Holy Spirit make up the single mystery of the Incarnation. It is revealed to us in the New Testament and especially - as a biographical and historical fact, full of mysterious truths - in Matthew's and Luke's narratives of Jesus' conception and birth. We acknowledge it in our profession of faith in Christ, the eternal Son of God, when we say that he was made man by being conceived and born of Mary "by the power of the Holy Spirit."

That mystery shines through the account which the evangelist Luke devotes to Mary's annunciation, as an event occurring within the context of a deep, sublime personal relationship between God and Mary. The narrative casts light also on the personal relationship which God wants to have with every person.

2. God is present in all beings as the principle and the one who sustains their existence according to the nature of each. He makes himself present in a new way in each person who opens himself up to him and becomes his follower, welcoming the gift of grace by which he is able to know and love him supernaturally, as guest of the soul transformed into a holy temple [1] . But in Christ's humanity God brings about a still higher and more perfect indwelling—and a unique one, uniting it to himself in the person of the eternal Word-Son (cf. Summa Theol., I, q. 8, a. 3, ad 4; III, q. 2, a. 2). One can say that he brought about a union and a special and privileged indwelling in Mary during the Incarnation of the Word, in the conception and birth of Jesus Christ, whose Father he alone is. It is a mystery which stands out when the Incarnation is considered in its fullness.

3. Let us reflect once more on the passage from Luke. It describes and documents God's very personal relationship with the Virgin, to whom his messenger communicated the call to be the mother of the Messiah, the Son of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit. On the one hand God communicated himself to Mary in the Trinity of Persons, which Christ one day would make more clearly known in their unity and distinction. The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that by God's will and grace she will conceive and bear him who will be acknowledged to be the Son of God; and that will happen by the power, that is by virtue, of the Holy Spirit, who, by overshadowing her, will cause her to be the human mother of this child. The term "Holy Spirit" resounds in Mary's soul as a Person's name; that is a new element compared to the tradition of Israel and the writings of the Old Testament. It is an anticipated revelation for her, who is allowed to share in what is at least a dim perception of the mystery of the Trinity.

4. In particular the Holy Spirit, who is made known in Luke's words reflected in the discovery which Mary made, appears as the one who, in a certain sense, "overcomes the distance" between God and man. It is the Person through whom God draws near to man in his humanity to "give himself as a gift" in his very divinity to man, and to bring about in every human being a new form of union and presence (cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., q. 43, a. 3). Mary is privileged in this discovery by reason of the divine indwelling and her union with God in her motherhood. In view of this very high vocation, she was given a special grace which the angel recognized in his greeting (cf. Lk 1:28). And all this is the work of the Holy Spirit, the principle of grace in every man.

In Mary the Holy Spirit descended and acted, chronologically speaking, even before the Incarnation, that is, from the moment of her Immaculate Conception. But that happens in view of Christ, her Son, in the extra-temporal sphere of the mystery of the Incarnation. For her the Immaculate Conception constituted, in advance, a participation in the benefits of the Incarnation and redemption, as the highpoint and fullness of the "self-gift" which God makes to man. And that is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. The angel said to Mary: "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 call holy, the Son of God" (Lk 1:35).

5. In the passage of Luke, among other truths, there is also the fact that God waited for an act of consent on the part of the Virgin of Nazareth. In the books of the Old Testament which refer to births under extraordinary circumstances, there are cases where parents because of their age are no longer capable of generating the desired offspring. From the case of Isaac, born to Abraham and Sarah in their already advanced old age, we arrive at the threshold of the New Testament with John the Baptist, born of Zechariah and Elizabeth, these, too, of advanced age.

In the annunciation to Mary something very different occurs. Mary gave herself completely to God in her virginity. To become the mother of God's Son, she did not have to do more than what was asked of her: give her consent to what the Holy Spirit will accomplish in her with his divine power. Thus the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit's work, includes an act of free will on the part of Mary, a human being. A human being (Mary) responded consciously and freely to God's action; she welcomed the Holy Spirit's power.

6. In asking for a conscious and free response, God respected in her and brought to its highest expression the "dignity of causality" which he himself gives to all beings and especially to human beings. On the other hand, that beautiful answer by Mary: "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38) is already itself a fruit of the power of the Holy Spirit within her in her will and heart. It is an answer given by grace and in grace, which comes from the Holy Spirit. But this did not make it cease being an authentic expression of her freedom as a human creature, a conscious act of free will. The inner action of the Holy Spirit aimed to ensure that Mary's response—and that of every human being whom God calls—is precisely what it ought to be. It expressed in the most compete fashion possible the personal maturity of an enlightened and pious conscience, which knew how to give itself without reservation. This is mature love. The Holy Spirit, giving himself to the human will as (uncreated) Love, ensures that created love is born and grows in the subject; at the same time this action, as an expression of human will, constitutes the person's spiritual fullness. Mary gave her answer of love in a perfect way, and thus became the shining type for every person's personal relationship with God.

7. The "event" of Nazareth, described by Luke in the Gospel of the annunciation, is therefore a perfect image - and we can call it the model - of the God-man relationship. God wills that this relationship be founded in every person on the gift of the Holy Spirit, but also on personal maturity. At the threshold of the new covenant the Holy Spirit gave Mary a gift of immense spiritual greatness. He obtained from her an action of dedication and loving obedience, which is an example for all those who are called to faith and to the following of Christ, now that "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14). After the earthly mission of Jesus and Pentecost, the call, God's "self-gift," the action of the Holy Spirit which continues the Nazareth event will be repeated throughout the whole future of the Church. And it will always have to be that man's answer to the call and to God's gift be given with the same personal maturity which radiated throughout the fiat of the Virgin of Nazareth during the annunciation."


After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai numerosi pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Ein herzlicher Willkommensgruß gilt den Teilnehmern an der Ministranten wallfahrt aus den Erzdiözesen Köln, München und Freising und der Diözese Essen sowie den Jugend-und Ministrantengruppen aus der Erzdiözese Paderborn. Verseht Eueren wichtingen Dienst am Alar immer mit der nötigen Ehrfurcht und Bereitwilligkeit. Der häufige Empfang des heiligsten Altarssakramentes möge Euch in Euerem Glauben bestärken.

Besonders grüße ich auch die Teilnehmer an der Jugendwallfahrt der Diözese Regensburg. Ihr alle wollt Euer Leben auf einem festen Fundament aufbauen. Maria gibt Euch ein Beispiel des Glaubens und der Liebe zu Gott. Das bedeutet für Euch, das zu tun, was uns Jesus in der Heiligen Schrift und in der Lehre der Kirche sagt. Es erfordert oft viel Mut, sich gegen den Zeitgeist und gängige Meinungen in der Gesellshaft zu stellen. Aber es ist der einzige Weg zu einem wahrhaft glücklichen Leben.

Schließlich gilt mein Gru den Teilnehmern an der Jubiläumsfahrt des katholischen Sportverbandes ”Deutsche Jugendkraft“. Zau Eueren bisher erreichten Zielen und Erfolgen spreche ich Euch meinen aufrichtigen Glückwunsch aus. Zugleich ermutige ich Euch, auch weiterhin neben Eueren Bemühungen um den Breiten-und Leistungssport der religiösen Bedeutung menschlicher Existenz Ausdruck zu verleihen. Ihr seid wirkliche Athleten, wenn Ihr Euch nicht nur auf körperliches Training beschränkt, sondern auch die spirituellen Werte der person für eine harmonische Entwicklung aller menschlichen Talente fördert.

Herzlich begrüße ich ferner eine Gruppe von Seminaristen aus Innsbruck, die sich in diesen Tagen unter Leitung ihres Regens in der Ewigen Stadt aufhalten. Euch allen und Eueren Angehörigen in der Heimat sowie den mit uns über Radio Vatikan verbundenen Hörerinnen und Hörern erteile ich meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Soeurs,

J’adresse a’ toutes les personnes de langue française présentes à cette audience un cordial salut. Je souhaite aux nombreux groupes qui ont été nommés, les jeunes et les aînés, de vivre leur pèlerinage à Rome dans la joie pascale et de retourner à leurs activités quotidiennes en témoins du Christ ressuscité, à l’exemple des Apôtres Pierre et Paul. A tous, je donne volontiers ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My special greeting goes to the ACROSS group of handicapped pilgrims and to the Erdington Abbey Choir and the parish choir from Rhode Island whose praise of God in song uplifts the minds and hearts of us all.

I also wish to greet the group from Saint Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York. May your stay in Rome during this holy season deepen your love for the priesthood and increase your desire to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and Martyrs who gave themselves completely to the service of God’s people.

Upon all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims at today’s audience I invoke the joy and peace of Jesus Christ our Risen Lord.

Ai fedeli di lingua castigliana

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Doy mi más cordial bienvenida a este encuentro a todas las personas, familias y grupos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España.

En particular, saludo a los numerosos grupos de jóvenes de diversos Colegios e Institutos españoles, a quienes exhorto a mantenerse siempre fieles a la fe cristiana, dando testimonio de ella en sus ambientes de estudio y de trabajo.

Igualmente saludo a las peregrinaciones de México, cuyo País, con la ayuda de Dios, tendré el gozo de visitar el próximo mes de mayo, mes de la Virgen.

Con mi más entrañable felicitación pascual, en la alegría del Señor Resucitado, imparto a todos la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

Saúdo cordialmente quantos acompanham esta Audiência. Em clima pascal, que todos participem da Salvação alcançada por Cristo Ressuscitado, nossa Páscoa, com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ad un gruppo di giapponesi

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! Dilettissimi pellegrini e membri dell’Ordine Francescano Secolare: rinnovo a voi l’augurio pasquale e vi invito a portare tra la gente, con il messaggio di “Pace e Bene”, la gioia della Risurrezione di Gesù. E con questo augurio imparto a tutti voi la mia Benedizione Apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

 Ai pellegrini polacchi

“Wstał, nie masz Go tu”.

Odwalony kamień - i z niszy grobowej ten głos. Słowo, którego człowiek nie waży się wypowiedzieć. Słowo, które przekracza całą empirycznąrzeczywistość. “ Zmartwychwstał ”.

“Oto dzień, który Pan uczynił”.

W tym dniu przeszło to słowo po raz pierwszy ulicami Jerozolimy do wieczernika gdzie byli zgromadzeni uczniowie, na drogę do Emaus. Wypowiadały to słowo usta Magdaleny i innych niewiast, usta Szymona Piotra i apostołów.

“Zmartwychwstał”: Christos voskres!

Dziś płynie to słowo, okrzyk paschalnego doświadczenia Kościoła, poprzez cały świat: ze wschodu na zachód, z północy na południe. Wypowiadają je niezliczone języki i dialekty ludów i narodów. Tylko małą część słyszymy w orędziu wielkanocnym z loggii Bazyliki św. Piotra.

Na polskiej ziemi najdawniej zapamiętana pieśń rezurekcyjna głosi: “ Chrystus zmartwychwstan jest - nam na przykład dan jest - iż mamy zmartwychpowstać ”.

Pieśń wyraża wiarę zmartwychwstania. Pieśń zarazem głosi zmartwychwstanie jako imperatyw i natchnienie dla ludzi.

Zwłaszcza w okresach trudnych, takich jak rozbiory, jak druga wojna światowa i jej konsekwencje.

Dzisiaj też ta staropolska pieśń wielkanocna - w nowym kontekście - powtarza ten sam imperatyw: “ iż mamy zmartwychpowstać ”.

Ciesz się Królowo Anielska, ciesz się Pani Jasnogórska! Tobie przynosimy nasze wielkanocne orędzie. Ty spraw, by stało się raz jeszcze przemożnym dla nas natchnieniem, tak jak buło olla tylu pokoleń na ojczystej ziemi.

Witam pielgrzymów z Polski, w szczególności pielgrzymkę Zespołu Opieki Zdrowotnej z Wadowic; pielgrzymkę z parafii św. Bartłomieja w Staszowie z diecezji sandomiersko-radomskiej; pielgrzymów z diecezji łomżyńskiej; współpracowników misyjnych sióstr pallotynek z całej Polski; studentów Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego, Unia Młodych, oraz wszystkich innych, zarówno z kraju, jak i z emigracji, nie objętych tymi grupami.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Saluto ora i Giovani, gli Ammalati e gli Sposi Novelli presenti a questa Udienza. Il messaggio che scaturisce dal mistero della Risurrezione sia per voi giovani un impegno di testimonianza: riconoscete che nell’evento di Cristo è annunciata la più profonda verità sull’uomo ed è tracciato il suo destino; sia per voi malati motivo di consolazione, poiché il Risorto assicura del valore redentore della croce, di ogni croce; sia per voi Sposi Novelli un programma per la vostra vocazione coniugale, poiché nella luce della Risurrezione ogni famiglia scopre la gioia e la bellezza di rispettare e di servire la vita, che è dono di Dio. A tutti la mia Benedizione.

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