THE WORK OF THE HOLY GHOST
“And Mary said to the Angel, How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the Angel answering said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren, because no word shall be impossible with God.” Luke 1:34-37
1. Mary does not ask in doubt, as did Zachary; she asks for the sake of her own guidance. There is in her vow a distinct difficulty in the way of her becoming a mother, and she has need of enlightenment. The answer is complete and clear; yet it does not remove the perfection of Our Lady’s act of faith. The Holy Ghost, always with her, would now come to her in a new way, elevating her to a new plane of sanctity. He would supply in her and make perfect whatever might be needed for the conception of the Son of God. Thus from Mary alone would the substance of the Child be formed.
2. Then would come the work of the Father. The body so formed by the power of the Holy Ghost should be taken by the Father to become the body of His own Son. This is the meaning of the words, “the power of the Most High shall overshadow Thee.” Thus does each Person of the Blessed Trinity co-operate. “The Father works the work of power in the union of the Person of His Son to the Human Nature, the Holy Ghost works the work of goodness, beneficence, mercy, and sanctification in the preparation of that Human Nature, and the Divine Son Himself becomes Incarnate, and takes to Himself for ever and for ever the Human Nature, the body and the soul conceived in the womb of Mary.” Therefore, in the strictest sense, as the Angel emphatically concludes, the Holy One that shall be born of the Virgin Mary shall be called and shall be strictly “the Son of God.”
3. The prophecy is confirmed by a new announcement; the greater wonder that is to be is confirmed by a lesser wonder that has actually happened. The connection between the two conceptions comes to us very naturally; the announcement to Our Lady seems to be also a guide to her as to what she is next to do, especially when we see to what it prompted her. And the Angel concludes with a quotation from Scripture, referring Our Lady back to the first of those miraculous conceptions which were a type or anticipation of this, that of the barren Sarah in the tent of Abraham, when at the promise of the Angel she became the mother of Isaac. And as St. Paul says of Abraham on this occasion, so, and even more may we say of Our Lady: “In the promise of God he staggered not by distrust, but was strengthened by faith, giving glory to God, most fully knowing that whatsoever He has promised this He is able also to perform.”
Summary Meditation Points:
1. Mary asks for guidance, not because she doubts, but because, as so often, to the human mind there is an apparent contradiction in the designs of God.
2. She receives for answer the explanation of the operation of the Blessed Trinity in the work of the Incarnation.
3. And the promise is confirmed, first by the announcement of another miraculous conception, then by reminding her of those other conceptions of which this is the antitype.
Art: L’Annonciation [The Annunciation], Nicolas Poussin, ca 1653, copyright Restored Traditions, used with permission. Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J., http://www.stmaryscadoganstreet.co.uk, all rights reserved, used with permission.