The Third Glorious MysteryThe Descent of the Holy Spirit
1. Before He left this earth for the glory of Heaven, Jesus promised His Apostles that He would not leave them orphans, but would send them the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, “whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.” (1 John 14:16-18) This promise was repeated by our divine Redeemer on the day of His ascension, when He told them not to depart from Jerusalem until the promise would have been fulfilled. In fact, the Apostles were obedient to His instructions. They gathered together in the Cenacle, where they spent the time in constant prayer along with Mary and a number of the faithful. On the feast of Pentecost the house was shaken by a sound from Heaven as of a violent wind blowing, and tongues of fire appeared which settled on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. (Cf. Acts 1:2)
According to a pious tradition the Holy Spirit descended first on the Blessed Virgin in the form of a ball of flame, from which emerged the tongues of fire which alighted on the heads of all present. There is a good deal of significance in this tradition. As Mary took first place in sharing in the passion of Jesus, so she ought to be first to share in the glory of the Redemption. St. Bernard compared the Blessed Virgin to an aquaduct bearing the treasures of grace and the gifts of the Holy Ghost to all the faithful. (Serm. De Aquaeductu.) It is an apt comparison, for the Mother of the Redeemer occupies a position of supremacy in the mystical body of Jesus Christ. Like the Apostles, we should persevere in prayer with Mary. (Cf. Acts 1:14) We should ask for the light and gifts of the Holy Spirit, for we need them very much if we are to walk always in the way of truth and goodness.
2. The Apostles were completely transformed after the feast of Pentecost. They had been ignorant rustics, timid and vacillating. They had hardly understood at all the lofty teaching of Christ, for they were hoping for an earthly kingdom in which they would occupy the highest posts.
When they received the Holy Spirit, however, their minds were flooded with supernatural light and they became heroic in their resolution. Ignorant though they had been, they became masters of truth far superior to the sages of Athens or the philosophers of Rome. They were no longer timid and hesitating, but fearlessly encountered the power of the Sanhedrin, the whips of the soldiery, the dangers of long voyages, and martyrdom itself.
We also have received the illumination and favours of the Holy Spirit. Many times when we have invoked Him, He has inspired and consoled us. But we may not have responded with the same fervour and self-denial as the Apostles. Let us remember that to neglect God’s gifts is to risk our eternal salvation.
3. Because of our weakness we should seek the intercession of Mary and, like the Apostles, persevere in prayer with her. Our prayers, however, should be more supernatural.
There is nothing to prevent us asking our good Mother to look after our temporal needs, such as our health, our business, and our attachments. The first miracle which Mary wrung from the heart of Jesus was at the wedding feast of Cana. Nevertheless, we should not be too materialistic. We should seek first of all from the Holy Spirit through Mary’s intercession the great glory of God and the eternal salvation of ourselves and of all our brothers in Jesus Christ.