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Pentecost and the Blessed Virgin Mary

All of Mary’s greatness as a Christian can be traced to the fact that the Holy Spirit came upon her, and that she lived in the presence of God, continuously aware of His presence in her life.

Detail from "Pentecost" (1308) by Duccio di Buoninsegna [Wikipedia]

We find ourselves at the conclusion of the novena to the Holy Spirit, in preparation for the great feast of Pentecost. What I would like to do today is to say a few words about what the Holy Spirit did for one particular woman, for it was the Holy Spirit Who made Mary both Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church.

All of Mary’s greatness as a Christian can be traced to the fact that the Holy Spirit came upon her, and that she lived in the presence of God, continuously aware of His presence in her life. Our Lady cooperated with the Spirit’s promptings in loving obedience to God’s Word, daily renewing her fiat of the Annunciation. Mary the Virgin heeded the Lord’s plan for her and thus became fruitful. Her life was an ongoing Magnificat; she was a woman of peace and joy because she gave the Spirit of God free rein in her life. When Mary experienced the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, she did not keep Him to herself; she immediately went forth to share that experience and its meaning with others. She also realized that a life in the Spirit necessarily involves service to others; therefore, not considering her own precarious situation, she went through the rough hill country to tend to the needs of her elderly cousin, Elizabeth.

What does all this have to do with you and me? A great deal, for what happened in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary can and must happen in our own lives. Each of us has received the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation, but what have we done with the Spirit? Are we more peaceful, more loving, more joyous for having received those sacraments? If not, the fault is not in the sacraments but in ourselves, that we have not activated the power of the Spirit in our lives.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s birthday of the Church, we cast our glance on the first and greatest Christian who ever lived, knowing that what the Spirit did for Mary, He will do only too gladly for every one of us. Today I would suggest taking some time out for a test to see whether or not you are a Spirit-filled person. The question is very simple: What have you done with the gifts the Spirit of God has given to you? Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them” (Mt 7:16). We know the fruit Our Lady brought forth, for every day we say: “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” Are you possessed by God’s Spirit?

Another way of asking that same question is: Have you brought forth Christ to the world in which you live?

The inestimable English Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, with his flare for attention-getting style, produced a grand work, entitled, “The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe”. Interestingly, in Hebrew, ruah encompasses a number of meanings: breath, wind, spirit – all of which come into play in the Pentecost event. Listen to how Hopkins brings all this together in a sampling of his verses here:

Wild air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
Snowflake; that’s fairly mixed
With, riddles, and is rife
In every least thing’s life;
This needful, never spent,
And nursing element;
My more than meat and drink,
My meal at every wink;
This air, which, by life’s law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God’s infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race—
Mary Immaculate,
Merely a woman, yet
Whose presence, power is
Great as no goddess’s
Was deemèd, dreamèd;
whoThis one work has to do—
Let all God’s glory through,
God’s glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.

Did you pick up on some of those lovely, key lines: “world-mothering air,” “nursing element,” “breathe its praise,” “mothers each new grace,” “let all God’s glory through”? As we enter spiritually into the Upper Room with Mary and the apostolic college, we gain confidence in a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us and upon God’s Holy Church – because we, like those first disciples, are united in prayer with the Mother of Christ, who is also our Mother in the order of grace.

A perhaps more famous poem of the Victorian Jesuit, “God’s Grandeur,” reminds us that “the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.” That’s the same Holy Spirit who, at the dawn of time, hovered over the abyss, bringing creation from chaos; the same Holy Spirit who hovered over the Virgin of Nazareth, making her the Mother of her Creator; and yes, the same Holy Spirit who hovers over the elements of bread and wine, transforming them into the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ. The founder of the Communion and Liberation movement, Monsignor Luigi Giussani, encouraged his followers to pray: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus. Veni per Mariam” (Come, Holy Spirit. Come through Mary).

Holy Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, pray for us.
Holy Mary, Queen of the Apostles, pray for us.
Holy Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.
Holy Mary, Queen of Mothers, pray for us.

(Editor’s note: This homily was preached and posted originally on the Vigil of Pentecost, June 7, 2019, for the Catholic Writers’ Retreat at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey.)

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About Peter M.J. Stravinskas 274 Articles
Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas founded The Catholic Answer in 1987 and The Catholic Response in 2004, as well as the Priestly Society of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, a clerical association of the faithful, committed to Catholic education, liturgical renewal and the new evangelization. Father Stravinskas is also the President of the Catholic Education Foundation, an organization, which serves as a resource for heightening the Catholic identity of Catholic schools.


  1. Thank you Father for reminding us of Mary’s greatness and thank you for the beautiful poem. The overshadowing of the Holy Spirit conceived that holy babe in her that we name True God and True Man. However, Mary was conceived without sin, without any stain, full of the holy spirit and her immaculate heart full of love for God; so that the angel could call her “Hail full of grace”. We thank God for Mary, His masterpiece, the pure and holy vessel to bring forth the Incarnate God our Redeemer. We know that the Son of God loves His creatures even to the cross. How great must be that love He has for her, the only pure immaculate human creature. Salve Regina, Ave Maria! Blessed Pentecost.

  2. We read: “…she went through the rough hill country to tend to the needs of her elderly cousin, Elizabeth.” Tend to the needs?

    This, and maybe something much more? Just as Mary, being Immaculate Conception in person, was preserved ahead of time from original sin and in advance of her still-free (!) decision to unconditionally say “fiat”—might she also have been drawn toward the mysteriously pregnant Elizabeth so that John, the baptizing forerunner and baptizer (!) of Jesus Christ, could himself be baptized for this role as from “the beginning” (by the Alpha and the Omega) even before his own birth?

    The interwoven communion of saints already on earth….A huge mystery in both cases…The fitting of timeless eternity, who has a name and a face, into chronological time as we both experience the world and encounter Ultimate Reality.

    Foolishness for the rationalist and pagan Greeks, and a stumbling block for all linear-thinkers, e.g., the genealogy-conscious Jews (1 Cor 1:23).

  3. Thank you for this SUBLIME piece of pure breathable Truth and beauty!
    Ahhh….fills ones being with unity and Peace.

    I just returned few weeks back from Achill Ireland…I went to Our Lady Queen of Peace house of prayer.
    One can feel there the eternal peace and full breath of the communion of love and fruitfulness of the 3rd Person of the Holy Trinity and the Immaculate one.

    I experienced a fullness I did not think could exist here on earth.

    Your poems and writing brought a portion of that back.

    Veni spiritu sancti

    Our Lady Queen of Peace pray for us.
    Your united CRY goes forth

    Jesus will ALWAYS be found with His mother.
    Mother ALWAYS with Her Son

  4. Wrong Mystery
    Although this article praises The Blessed Mother it totally misses the proper emphasis of the Third Glorious Mystery “The Coming of the Holy Spirit.
    The five Glorious Mysteries:
    1. The Resurrection
    2. The Ascension
    3. The Coming of the Holy Spirit
    4. Mary’s Assumption into Heaven
    5. Mary’s Coronation in Heaven
    I suggest we stick to Pentecost and Glorious Mystery Number 3.

  5. These are good thoughts Fr Peter – the wonder of these mysteries is that there seems so much to meditate upon within them. One of Our Lady’s notable titles is ‘Our Lady of Good Counsel’ – it us not hard to imagine her advice being earnestly and frequently sought by the apostles and early disciples of the Church – a role to which she was most aptly fitted.

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