|The Holy Spirit as a dove in the Annunciation, by Philippe de Champaigne, 1644|
THE Incarnation of the Word is not only a mystery of our Faith, it is also the greatest miracle that the power of God has ever accomplished.
Nothing, in fact, more surpasses the powers of nature, than the union of a Person, divine, uncreated and infinite, with created and finite human nature. But God willed that another stupendous miracle should be added to the first: namely, the virginal conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, who, by an altogether singular privilege was visited by the Holy Ghost. The power of the Most High covered her with His shadow, in order that she might conceive and bring forth the very Word of God.
As there can be no higher dignity in a pure creature, than that of cooperating immediately with the Holy Ghost in forming the body of a God, so it is not to be wondered at that God should set aside the laws of nature in order to safeguard the virginity of His Mother.
Wonder unspeakable! How dearly it makes known to us the love of the Holy Spirit for His Spouse; and how it enhances in our sight the sublime dignity of the Mother of God!
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The virginal conception of Jesus Christ in Mary's womb, like every other wonderful work of God, must be ascribed to the common operation of the Three Divine Persons, who having the same nature, unite in all their works ad extra. However, it is to the Holy Ghost that we attribute this virginal conception, and that for several reasons.
In the first place, the Incarnation is a work of love, since God became Man because of the love He bore us; now the Holy Ghost is precisely, in the Holy Trinity, the con-substantial love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father.
Moreover, by its union with the Word, the most holy Humanity of Jesus became the greatest marvel of spiritual perfection, having been raised, ennobled and made glorious above all created things by the light of the Godhead: now, it is to the Holy Spirit that we attribute the work of grace, and all the fruits of sanctification flowing there-from.
Finally, the Incarnation had for its end the redemption of the human race, which Jesus Christ was to admit to participation in the graces, whereof He possessed the fullness. Now, this sanctification, which has its origin in Jesus Christ, is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit. It is just, therefore, that we attribute the accomplishment of this great mystery to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.
For these reasons, Mary is the chosen temple, the unique sanctuary of the Holy Ghost: a sanctuary so beautiful, so rich in divine gifts, that all other sanctuaries pale in comparison.
Rejoice, O my soul, that such blessings have come to us by the operation of the Holy Ghost in Mary. Repeat with a holy exultation these words wherewith the Heavenly Bridegroom delighted to address this incomparable Mother: "Thou art a garden enclosed, my sister, my spouse; thou art a sealed fountain: thy plants are a paradise of delights." (Cant. iv, 12-18.)
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The virginal conception of Jesus Christ in Mary's womb, not only brings to the fore the doctrine of the Divine Maternity together with that of the Divinity of Jesus Christ, but it is also an eloquent proof that, beyond the natural order, there exists a supernatural life, which is the end of all things created.
For, if God willed that such a miraculous intervention of the Holy Ghost should take place in the conception of the Redeemer of mankind, we can deduce from this fact that the scope of the Incarnation is beyond all that the order of nature comprehends. In fact, Jesus Christ became Man in order to give us grace in this life and the recompense of glory in the next.
Let us give thanks to the Holy Ghost for His having overshadowed Mary and thereby having given to ourselves the knowledge of this great truth: that we are made for heaven, and for heaven alone.
St. Elizabeth Of Hungary
St. Elizabeth, daughter of Andrew II, King of Hungary, and wife of Ludwig, Landgrave of Thuringia, was from her earliest youth most devout to the glorious Queen of Heaven. She always took delight in venerating her and in causing her to be venerated by all with whom she came in contact. She never wearied of saying the Angelical Salutation in honour of the Mother of God.
Among the virtues most conspicuous in St. Elizabeth, was her love of holy poverty. This she learnt in the school of our blessed Lady herself, for the Queen of heaven and earth practiced poverty during the whole of her mortal life. This spirit of poverty inspired St. Elizabeth with so great a scorn for earthly possessions, that she detested all that was not strictly necessary, and would not even retain what was befitting her dignity as queen. Once, on the Feast of the Assumption, while assisting at the solemn Mass, she took off her royal crown before all the bystanders and pushing away the cushions set for her, knelt on the bare ground, declaring that such adornments were not befitting a servant of Jesus Christ, seeing that He, the King of heaven and earth, had always lived poorly and died crowned with bitter thorns.
After her husband's death, Elizabeth underwent the fiercest persecutions. Through the envy and hatred of the great nobles, it was spread about that by her alms-giving she had wasted the Crown treasury. On this account she was driven from the court, exposed to every sort of insult, and finally obliged to take refuge in a little hut, where she suffered terribly from hunger and the severity of the weather. In the midst of these tribulations, always borne with heroic patience, she was lovingly helped by our blessed Lady, her sweet Patroness, who even deigned to appear to her and speak to her.
At last, St. Elizabeth was restored to her original dignity. But instead of peacefully enjoying the pleasures and honours of her rank, she turned her back on all the things of the world and asked to be clothed in the poor habit of St. Francis. For the rest of her life she never ceased to exercise herself in the practice of penance and humility. At last, invited by her heavenly Spouse to the wedding-feast of paradise, she exchanged the tears of her exile for the joys of heaven, dying at Marburg, in Germany, on the nineteenth of November, 1231.
Glorious Virgin, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, wonder of the universe, I praise and exalt thee because of the matchless conception of Jesus Christ in thy virginal womb. Grant, I pray thee, that keeping always bright within me the lamp of faith, I may inherit one day the promises made to those who serve thy Son with fidelity. Amen.