Pentecost Sunday - Mary's role as Mother of the Church
“But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.” On the feast of Pentecost, the third Person of the Holy Trinity descends from Heaven upon the apostles and Our Lady, taking the form of rushing wind and tongues of fire. His advent upon those gathered in the upper room sparks the missionary efforts of the Church, as the apostles depart from their solitude and take to the streets, preaching, instructing and converting. This presence of God the Holy Ghost was promised by Christ before His Ascension, and is the manifestation of the love of God for His Church.
As Dom Gueranger writes for the feast: “That mysterious storm, that fire, those tongues, that sacred enthusiasm of the Disciples—have told us so much of God’s plans upon this our world! We could not but say within ourselves: ‘Has God loved the world so much as this?’ When our Redeemer was living with us on this earth, he said to one of his disciples: God hath so loved the world, as to give it his Only Begotten Son. The mystery achieved today forces us to complete these words and say: ‘The Father and the Son have so loved the world, as to give it their own Divine Spirit!’”
This age of the Church is one guided by the Holy Spirit, in which the Church awaits the second coming of Her Founder, and the drawing up of faithful souls into heaven for union with God. It is particularly interesting to note the relation between Mary and the Holy Spirit on this feast day, to see the importance of the guidance of the Holy Spirit and devotion to Mary.
The Holy Ghost gives birth to the Church on this feast of Pentecost, and the apostles begin the new era of the Church’s life after Christ’s Ascension into heaven. But while Mary is part of the Church, and its most pre-eminent member, she is also a type of the Church. Christ entrusted us to her at the cross, in the words “Son, behold your Mother.” The Church is not apart from Mary, nor would it be right for Mary to be absent at Pentecost. As the Church blossoms and grows, Mary’s role is renewed.
So much so, that Dom Gueranger writes that the Church is not only born from the advent of the Third Person, but from Mary also. “Here is a new mission opened for Mary. The Church is born; she is born of Mary. Mary has given birth to the Spouse of her Son; new duties fall upon the Mother of the Church. Jesus has ascended into heaven, leaving Mary upon the earth, that she may nurse the infant-Church.”
Once more the Holy Ghost comes upon Mary and fills her with the graces need for the mission bestowed to her by God. At the Annunciation He did likewise, following her humble acceptance of the will of God, so that following this humble fiat, Life Himself was given to the world: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee.”
From this celestial cooperation between Mary and the Holy Spirit, Christ came unto the world, suffered and died for sins, and resurrected on the third day. Now once more, Mary and the Holy Ghost are joined in this loving act of cooperation with the Divine Will, as she now gives birth to the Church and devotes herself to being both Mother and member of the Church.
“The Holy Ghost now infuses into Mary the plenitude of the grace needful for her maternal mission. From this day forward, she acts as Mother of the infant Church: and when, at length, the Church no longer needs her visible presence, this Mother quits the earth for heaven, where she is crowned Queen; but there too, she exercises her glorious title and office of Mother of men.”
On Calvary, Mary was given to the Church as Mother while acting as Co-Redemptrix. The words Christ spoke, were uttered from the cross while she stood at its foot, offering herself with Him. Having participated in the act of redemption in this manner, she now becomes the Mediatrix of graces. She who once gave Life to the world, now once more is the channel through which the life of grace is continually given. Her Divine Motherhood necessitated her co-redemptive act, which in turn necessitates her Motherhood of the Church.
The love of God for man lead to the Incarnation, and the sending of the Son. The reciprocal love of the Father and the Son for each other, as well as that of the Son for mankind for whom He had paid the price of salvation, led to the sending of the Holy Ghost, to guide and sustain the Church. But in addition to this, the reciprocal love of the Son and the mother did not end at the cross, but continues in perpetuity, leading to Mary’s complete devotion of self to the Church, just as Christ sacrificed Himself entirely.
With this in mind, availing of the many graces offered by the Holy Ghost must go in tandem with devotion to the Mother of the Church, for how can one turn to one but not the other? The Catholic Church firmly teaches and proclaims devotion to Mary, and rightly so, for the Mother of God is the foremost member of the Church, and intimately united in its birth and life.
Yet Mary remains ever true to her Biblical form, quietly sustaining the Church with her prayers from a hidden spot. While the apostles leave the upper chamber to convert the peoples, inspired with the Holy Ghost, Mary remains behind, but not out of fear. Her mission is not to preach, but to nurture. Just as she was quietly acting with Christ, so she now quietly acts with and for the Church, assuming not the honours for herself, but always pointing towards God.
“She has received the tongue of fire; and although her voice is not to make itself heard in public preaching, yet will she speak to the Apostles, directing and consoling them in their labors. She will speak, too, to the Faithful, but with a force, sweetness, and persuasiveness, becoming one whom God has made the most exalted of his creatures.”
With the advent of the Holy Ghost, and fortified by the graces which He imparts through the Mediatrix of graces, the Church is thus able to face the challenges which She must overcome in every age. Her members are given the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. To faithful souls are also given the fruits of the Holy Ghost: charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, contingency, and chastity.
These gifts and fruits are all found in Mary, who practices them to perfection. “Oh! how lovely, and yet how dignified, is this infancy of our dear Church, cherished as she is, fed, and strengthened by Mary!”