| All for the Heart of Jesus through the Heart of Mary!
Consecration to Mary: PART IV
Spouse of the Spirit: Marian Availability and Communication
By Sr. Sara Marie, SCTJM
“And the angel said to her in reply, ‘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 called holy, the Son of God’” (Lk 1:35).
The conception of God-made-man was a result of the spousal union between Our Lady and the Holy Spirit. In the moment that Mary uttered her fiat, the “two were made one flesh” and God took on human form in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. Just as in the beginning, when the Spirit ‘hovered over the waters’ and the world was created, so too the New Creation was begun by the ‘overshadowing’ of the Spirit. In the moment of the Incarnation, Mary became the symbol for the new creation, for she became the new dwelling place of the Holy Spirit in the world. As our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “Mary is the living Church. It is upon her that the Holy Spirit descends, thereby making her the new Temple” (Mary: Church at the Source, p.88).
The union between Our Lady and the Holy Spirit was so perfect and so fruitful that the fruit of it is God Himself made man. It is important to take a serious and profound look into the nature of this perfect union, into the reason why we can call Mary the “Spouse of the Spirit.” From our understanding of this great mystery, we are also able to see and understand our own vocation as Christians.
The angel addresses Mary as “full of grace.” To fully understand this greeting, we must first ask ourselves, “What is grace?” Pope Benedict XVI explains that grace is a relational term, and signifies a relationship between God and man. He writes, “Grace in the proper and deepest sense of the word is not something that comes from God; it is God himself…The gift of God is God – he who as the Holy Spirit is communion with us. ‘Full of grace’ therefore means, once again, that Mary is a wholly open human being, one who has opened herself entirely, one who has placed herself in God’s hands boldly, limitlessly, and without fear of her own fate” (ibid. p. 67-68). In other words, to be ‘full of grace’ means to be ‘full of the Holy Spirit,’ to be totally open to Him and His presence within us.
Therefore, when we consecrate ourselves to the Blessed Mother, the Spouse of the Spirit, we consecrate ourselves to this union between God and man. We consecrate ourselves to this union so we too can have the same deep union with God in us. In doing so, we receive the grace to allow the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. From her, we receive the grace to rid ourselves from all that hinders this union. We receive the grace to tear down the walls we put up that do not allow the presence of the Holy Spirit inside of us. In consecrating ourselves to her, we enter more fully into union with she who is the ‘living Church’ and in this way, we enter into this ‘living Church.’ When we do this, we become the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’ that we are called to be (1 Cor 6:19).
Total, Docile, and Obedient Marian Availability
Next, we must ask ourselves what it means to live as a Spouse of the Spirit, for as we have mentioned previously, Mary serves as a ‘mirror’ in which we are able to see our own vocation as Christians. We must look to her to see what we are called to be. First, it is important to understand that we too are called to be Spouses of the Spirit. We are called to give the Holy Spirit free access to our whole person – body, heart, mind, will, soul – so that the Lord can live and love through us. We are called to be able to say with St. Paul, “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). This is the final destiny for every one of us – to be people freely and completely given over to the presence of God living inside them; to offer no resistance to this presence, but to completely allow ourselves to be ruled by it. Only in this way are we fully living our Christian vocation – when it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. And no one did this more fully or more perfectly than Mary. She was the first true “charismatic.” To be truly charismatic is to live in the Spirit, to hear, listen and follow His voice. No one has ever done this like Mary.
Therefore, the disposition that particularly characterizes living as a Spouse of the Spirit is total, docile, and obedient availability to God and His will. This implies a constant readiness to listen and carry out His will. It requires the attentiveness of a ‘handmaid’ that has her eyes constantly on the King so as to anticipate his desires in order to carry out His will with diligence and promptitude. It means that we never – at any moment – stop listening to, watching, waiting, or seeking the voice of our Spouse and King.
Jesus told St. Angela Foligno, “Make yourself a capacity and I will make myself a torrent.” This “torrent” is the very life of God given to us in the Holy Spirit. The Lord desires to fill us with Himself as much as we are able to receive Him – as much as we are a “capacity.” There is nothing He desires to hold back from us – He is willing to give Himself fully. However, we often do not make ourselves a capacity. We close off areas of our heart to His presence. We choose not to hear His voice speaking to us. We harden our hearts, we ignore His voice, we pretend we do not hear Him, we distract ourselves with other “noises” in order to justify doing our own will. We make all sorts of reasonable and logical excuses as to why the Lord is not calling us to this or that thing. We “hear” Him calling us to something higher, something more, but instead of listening more closely to see what that “more” is, we quickly keep moving along our own path, acting as if we did not really “hear” anything. Because of our fears, mistrust, and lack of confidence in His love for us, we do not make ourselves fully open to His presence, fully available to accomplish His will. But this cannot be. We do not want it to be so. The “torrent” with which the Lord wishes to fill us is His great, eternal, infinite, and fully-satisfying Love. The “torrent” is the only thing that fulfills our deep and unquenchable thirst for God. His will is our peace. When we consecrate ourselves to Our Blessed Mother, we consecrate ourselves to her open and available Heart that made itself a total “capacity” for the Lord – so much so that the Holy Spirit was able to fully enter into her Heart…so powerfully that God became man. When we consecrate ourselves to her, we receive a share of her Heart – her Heart that closed nothing off to the presence of the Lord; her Heart that allowed God to fully reign; her Heart that allowed His will to be done in it; her Heart that was fully attentive to the voice of the Lord, heard all that He spoke to her, and immediately acted on all that she heard; her Heart that perfectly did the will of the Lord at every moment of her life; her heart that had perfect trust, confidence in the Lord’s love for her and all humanity. We consecrate ourselves to Our Lady in order that we too can become a perfect and expansive “capacity” for the “torrent” of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
There are three levels to this total, obedient and Marian availability – progressive steps that we follow as we grow in union with the Lord and become more attentive to His voice in our hearts. St. Maria Faustina writes in her Diary about these levels, as they were spoken to her by a priest: “There are three degrees in the accomplishment of God’s will: in the first, the soul carries out all rules and statutes pertaining to external observance; in the second degree, the soul accepts interior inspiration and carries them out faithfully; in the third degree, the soul, abandoned to the will of God, allows Him to dispose of it freely, and God does with it as, He pleases, and it is a docile tool in His hands” (Diary, no.444).
The first level, in other words, is simply obeying the commandments of the Lord – in essence to avoid sin. This is the most basic and essential way in which we live in union with the Lord. St. John makes this very clear in his first Letter – loving the Lord and being in union with Him means following His commandments (1 John 2:5-6). We have the presence of the Holy Spirit in us as much as we do not sin. Therefore, the first step in living a life filled with the Holy Spirit is ridding ourselves of sin and following the commandments – in other words, conversion. If we want a life of deep prayer and union with the Holy Spirit, we must set ourselves to the task of an arduous conversion of heart. In fact, it is the Holy Spirit that actually brings about this conversion by “convincing the world according to sin” (Jn 16:8); in other words, He shows us our sin so we can begin, with His grace, to change it. We see this clearly with the woman at the well that Jesus meets in Samaria (Jn 4:5-42). When she asks Jesus for a drink of the “living water” that will satiate her thirst forever, Jesus replies, “Go call your husband and come back” (v. 16). She replies that she does not have a husband; instead she has had five and lives with a man that is not her husband. In other words, Jesus, in order to give her the ‘living water’ – which is none other than the Holy Spirit – that she so desires, requires conversion from her first. He deeply desires to satiate her thirst with the ‘water’ of the Holy Spirit; but she must first begin to live a life in conformity with the commandments. Who did this better than Our Lady – the Immaculate Conception – who lived a perfectly sinless life? Therefore, she was – and continues to be – fully satiated with the ‘living water’ of the Spirit.
Jesus says in the Gospel, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21). Though the first level of this “doing the will of the Father” is certainly refraining from sin, it is more than that as well. For the Lord has a will for us at each moment of our lives, and when we are living in union with the Holy Spirit, we are able to hear His voice and follow His inspirations. Often these inspirations pertain to those things that are not sinful – in other words, a choice between two seemingly good things. And if we are willing to be attentive, in many situations, the Lord will speak His desires to us through the Holy Spirit. This is the second level of availability to the Lord’s will, and faithfulness to these inspirations is the shortest route to the highest degrees of holiness (Diary of St. Maria Faustina, no. 291). Clearly, there is a great fruitfulness that comes from being faithful to the commandments of the Lord. However, how much more fruitful will we be when we choose to listen to Him at each moment of our lives? How much more of an effective instrument we will be in His hands when we learn to see beyond what is simply “good” to what is “pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:2)? Who did this more perfectly than Our Lady who fulfilled the “perfect” will of the Lord at each moment of her existence?
This naturally leads us into the third degree of accomplishment of the Lord’s will – that of being a perfectly docile tool in the Lord’s hands – one which accomplishes His will in every moment and is able to be used in any way the Lord wishes. Imagine the fruitfulness of a life that is perfectly conformed to the will of the Lord. In this life, each and every thought, action, and word would be perfectly fecund. Each and every movement of the soul, word of the mouth, and action of the person would bring about grace into the world. This was the fruitfulness of Our Lady. Each and every movement of her soul was an accomplishment of the Father’s will. She is the Spouse of the Spirit in the fullest sense, in that she lived in perfect union with her Spouse and always heard and carried out His will. How much we lack this disposition, this availability, this docility to the will of the Lord! However, when we consecrate ourselves to Our Lady, we consecrate ourselves to her fruitful and perfect union with the Holy Spirit, thereby receiving graces to live more fully in this union ourselves. We receive the grace to think, speak, and act more perfectly in conformity to the will of the Father.
Enfleshing our Total Docility and Availability
In order to put this docility and availability to the Holy Spirit in our lives, it is fundamentally important that we understand that we lived an incarnated faith. What does this mean? It means that we live out our faith and love for God in the midst of the realities of the world. Therefore, being docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit means being docile the actual people in our lives. We must enflesh our docility to God in our relationships to others. Therefore, we must begin to evaluate our total docility and availability to the Lord by evaluating our total docility to others. This begins by evaluating our docility and availability to those to whom we are under the most obligation. For example, how docile and available are we to the Church, which is God’s very presence on the earth. Are we docile to her teachings? Are we available to fulfill and look after her needs, which are seen in many places – her parishes, her dioceses, her priests and bishops, her charities, her organizations? Are we docile and available to our parents and families? Are we looking to carry out their wishes? Are we looking to be available to serve and be present to them? What about those in authority over us – teachers, coaches, bosses, directors, government authority and laws, etc? Are we willing to be docile to their wishes and available to serve them? Or are we more apt to force our own opinions, our own ways of doing things, and our own wills rather than seeking to see their vision and conform to it (all this clearly bearing in mind that what is being asked is not sinful or harmful)? Are we willing to place ourselves at the disposition of others in order to serve them and their needs rather than looking to serve ourselves or do things our way? All these are the questions we must begin to ask ourselves if we truly want to become docile and available to the Lord in the manner of Our Lady. We must live incarnated lives, realizing that our actions with others are a reflection of our behavior and actions towards the Lord. Our Lady’s docility and availability was total and perfect; therefore, we can understand that this docility and availability was incarnated in her relationship with others. The inner disposition towards the Lord that allowed her to say, “Let it be done unto me according to your word,” allowed her to also place herself at the service of all those she encountered. She does this in a very particular way for us today through her constant intercession on our behalf.
When we consecrate ourselves to Mary, we consecrate ourselves to her totally docile and available heart. We receive a share of her Heart that placed itself in a constant and docile disposition of availability before God and men. We, like her, receive the grace to become a docile and pliant tool in the hands of the Lord – not a tool that fights against Him trying to run on its own. Instead, we allow ourselves to be a tool totally given over to the hands of the Master Builder so that He can use us as He pleases.
The Holy Spirit of Love
One final thought before we continue…In St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, in his famous chapter on love (chapter 13), he tells the Corinthians that, no matter what they do, no matter how seemingly heroic, if they do not have love, their actions means nothing. Even giving our very lives, if not done in love, becomes a meaningless and fruitless act. These words of St. Paul bring us full circle. For what is Love, but the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is Love Himself living in us. Therefore, we see that to love is to do the will of God; to do the will of God is to love; and the Holy Spirit living in us is the only way in which we are able to love and to do God’s will. Love must be both the source and goal of all our actions. To become a fruitful and perfectly docile tool in the hands of the Lord is to live a life in which we are loving Him and, therefore, listening to Him, at every moment. Our whole being, afire with the Spirit and Flame of Love, yearns to please the Beloved by carrying out His every request. It is a life totally given over to Him, to pleasing Him and serving Him because of Love. Who better can show us how this is done than the Spouse of the Spirit who lived her life as a total oblation to Love, who burned with the Fire of the Spirit, whose only food was to do with will of her Beloved?
We must begin to ask ourselves if we burn with this same Love, this same Spirit. Do we live a life wholly given over to Love, totally docile and obedient to the designs of Love for our lives? We will only begin to do this if we allow ourselves to be open – if we choose to believe that God is Love, that His designs for us are our peace, our rest, and our happiness. Only then will be truly begin to make ourselves a “capacity” so that the Love can make Himself a “torrent.” The pierced Heart of Christ, through which flow Blood and Water – the ‘living water’ of the Spirit – is the torrent which washes and bathes us and desires to fill us. The desire to become a living fountain of Love comes from the very depths, from the very Heart of God Himself. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift from the Heart of Christ, from the Heart of the Father. And Mary, standing at the foot of the Cross, is the one who waits to receive this gift from the Heart of her Son. She stands beneath the Cross to receive the “torrent” that flows from the Heart of her Son. She receives it all, allowing none to fall to the ground in vain. She receives in the name of each one of us. She that is “full of grace” receives the fullness of grace from the Pierced Heart of her Son in order to be a treasury of grace, a treasury of the Holy Spirit. The Mother of all Grace receives the Holy Spirit in the name of her children in order to give to them in their need. When we consecrate ourselves to her, we consecrate ourselves to this “treasury of the Holy Spirit” in order that we may receive from this heavenly storehouse of love, grace, and life.
However, as we have already mentioned many times before, we do not receive a gift in order to keep it for ourselves. A gift always implies a task. Therefore, to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit means that we also receive the task of mission. We are to “go out” and take this Gift to all those in need.
The Mission of Communication
The Holy Spirit Himself is the “sending forth” of Love. He Himself is the “communication” of Love between the Father and Son and between God and man. His very essence is that of communication and being sent. Furthermore, this communication of Love from God to man is so deep and intimate that He sends Himself to each man, to each individual. He is God Himself living in the heart of each man – living in the most intimate part of man. The mission of the Holy Spirit is one of “sent-ness” – through the Holy Spirit God comes to the heart of men and sanctifies and changes our hearts from within. Therefore, if we are truly living a life in union and communion with the Holy Spirit – which is the call of every person – then we too are called to “go out” to communicate God, to bring Him to other hearts so in need of His presence. We see this first in Mary – upon being “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit and conceiving Christ, her first action was to “go in haste” to her cousin Elizabeth (Lk 1:39). And what did her arrival do? It sanctified the soul of John the Baptist who was still living within the womb of Elizabeth. Mary “went out” and brought about the sanctification of souls. She was the first apostle of her Son. Many years later, we see the same pattern among the Apostles. Not until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost did they begin to “go out” preaching, baptizing and sanctifying souls. Their mission could not begin until they received the power of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, when we consecrate ourselves to Mary, we consecrate ourselves to the mission of communication. We consecrate ourselves, through her, to the Holy Spirit, to living in union with Him, which necessarily implies a readiness to be sent. By consecrating ourselves to Mary, we receive her missionary heart, which is always ready to go “in haste” in order to bring God to souls. Mary, more than any other person, understood the value of the Gift she had received. She understood that the “love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14). Because she knew Its infinite and inestimable value, she also understood that the only proper response is to place our whole person before the Gift, for its service. She understood that the greatness of the Gift calls for a response nothing short of our whole selves. We place our whole selves, with all our own gifts and potentialities, at the disposal of the Gift who is God, so that this Gift may be, through us, communicated to many more hearts. In consecrating ourselves to Mary, we consecrate ourselves to her total response that places herself at the service of the Gift. Hans Urs von Balthasar writes, “Her Yes remains for the members of the Church the central and fully valid answer to the Lord’s demands…Mary always declares her faith-filled readiness…Nor is there any form of Christian perfection that does not consists in the Marian act of unrestricted readiness” (Mary: the Church at its Source, p.120).
Finally, in summary, Paul VI writes, “[T]he presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people’s salvation… It merits having the apostle consecrate to it all his time and all his energies, and to sacrifice for it, if necessary, his own life…Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace”(Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 5, 14).
Ways in Which We Impede Communication
Unfortunately, there are many ways in which we cease being who we are – communicators of God. One of the fundamental ways in which we do this is by selfishly refusing to move out of our comfort zones to bring others the Gift of Christ. This “comfort zone” is manifested in a number of ways. It can be physical comfort, emotional comfort, or intellectual comfort. We could be lazy, apathetic, insecure, fearful, or selfish with our time and energy. There are many excuses we can make. However, we must remember that Mary did not refuse to make the long and hard journeys to Bethlehem and Egypt. As well, we cannot imagine that she had any fears or emotional insecurity that stopped her from doing what she needed to do. We too must realize that we are not giving ourselves; we are giving Jesus. The inestimable value of the Gift should help us to lose all fear and insecurity – all people need and want this Gift. All people were made for this Gift – and only for this Gift – and not one person is excluded from this. We must have a zeal and love for souls that desires their salvation and completely forget ourselves in the process.
Another way we impede communication is when we cease having the glory of God and sanctification of souls as the only motivation for our actions. The efficacy of our communication depends on the purity of our hearts and intentions. We will communicate what we love, and if we love ourselves, that is all we will communicate. Therefore, the more we love God for the sake of loving God (and not for ourselves) we will be more effective communicators of His love to others.
As well, we must realize that effective communication is only effective because of the Holy Spirit. The only true Gift we can give others is the gift of God – the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit Himself is the Gift. Therefore, when we think that the “success” of our efforts is due to us, we are mistaken. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to transform hearts, and therefore, if our words or actions help bring about the transformation of hearts, it is because the Holy Spirit is in our words and actions. Therefore, our primary duty is to call constantly upon the presence of the Holy Spirit. One of the first ways He becomes present is through us – when we are living as a true temple of the Holy Spirit. We must allow ourselves to become His temple. One of the surest ways to do so is by consecrating ourselves to Mary, for St. Louis de Montfort writes, that where the Holy Spirit finds His spouse, He flies (True Devotion to Mary, no. 36). Mary, as the Bride of the Holy Spirit, carried the Spirit with her in an unsurpassable way. This union made her truly “effective.” The presence of the Spirit – not the eloquence of our words, not the amount of our preparation, not our natural gifts – is what “sets [a person’s] heart aflame with greater desire…[and] makes him love what he already knows and desire what he has yet to know” (St. Augustine, In Ioannis Evangelium Tractatus, 97, 1: PL 35, 1877). Even the words of Jesus, the living Word, did not fully penetrate the hearts of the Apostles until the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Importantly, it was the presence of the Blessed Mother among them that served as the silent channel through which the Spirit was able to pass and descend upon the nascent Church.
As we have mentioned before, we are channels of grace, channels of God. Therefore, we need to be channels that do not block God’s presence flowing through us. This requires purity. As well, it requires our obedience to the will of God. As a channel, we need to stay in the “path” of grace; we must be like a pipe in midst of a river – if the pipe removes itself from the river, it no longer serves as a channel through which water flows. The same is true of us. If we remove ourselves from the source – the river of God’s Life – by not obeying or following His will, we cease to be channels of anything; we cease being an effective instrument. We must, like Our Blessed Mother, always be willing to say, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your will.”
One of the other ways in which we impede communication is when we fail to be who we are called to be – in other words, when we are not a living witness. One must be who he is; one must live the Life he claims to possess, for “the world is only impacted with a testimony of life. The words stop having value or power if they are not supported by an authentic lifestyle” (Mother Adela Galindo, Foundress SCTJM). It is only in him who “keeps his word” that “love for God is perfected” (1 Jn 1:5). “Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18). Paul VI told us, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (EN, 41). That is why Mary is the greatest evangelizer. She is a living Gospel, one who lives the faith in all its perfection.
As well, the way in which we speak can impede communication; the way in which we communicate is as important at the words we actually say. Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “Spread love everywhere you go…Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness.” In communicating and teaching, we must always be kind, respectful, sweet, polite, and courteous. Our words should display maturity, formation and education – however, never in a way that is condescending, but instead, one that elevates the mind and the heart. All that we say should and do should edify: “No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29). We should always avoid judgmental, critical, dry, sharp, exaggerated, or harsh words and responses. It also must never be forgotten that to communicate is truly to share; it involves reciprocity; therefore, we also must be willing to be silent and listen. The tone, the expression, the gestures, and the eyes communicate and teach. If any part of the “message” lacks love, the message itself will be lacking. One may be able to lie with words, but the heart communicates itself in many unspoken ways. If someone is not loving in his heart, he will not communicate love in its fullness. These unspoken “lackings” can often be the most harmful, even if the one receiving them is not able to tangibly express what seems to be lacking; however, there is a certain imperceptible understanding within people that tells them “something is missing.” This is why the holiness of many saints is often simply “felt” or “perceived” without any particular external manifestation on their parts. Love radiates from the inside, from the heart, and expresses itself in countless imperceptible exterior forms.
Therefore, we must begin by loving people from our hearts. Are we respecting them with our thoughts? Are we upholding their dignity in our hearts and minds? If not, those thoughts will come out in some form or another. “Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). To help up with this, there is no one better than Our Blessed Mother, who truly loves each of us with a pure and deep love. Despite our sins, faults, imperfections, and weakness, she loves us totally and completely. True love sees the lackings in another and seeks to change them out of love for the other, not out of love for self. Our Mother communicates in way that convicts us and loves us at the same time.
In conclusion, we consecrate ourselves to Mary so that she can remove all these impediments to mission, to authentic and available love. We ask her to remove the stones in our heart that prevent us from purely communicating God’s love and grace. We consecrate ourselves so we can be a true spouse of the Spirit – one who lives in loving union with the Holy Spirit, always perfectly ready and available to do His will, to carry out His loving requests. We consecrate ourselves to a loving and docile availability that seeks to go out, to be sent on mission – mission for souls. We pray that, through this consecration, the Blessed Mother gives us a piece of her own heart, her heart that is aflame with the love of God and His children, that always looks to “go out in haste” to fulfill the Lord’s will.
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