Generous Cooperation with the Holy Spirit

St. Bernard rightly affirms: “Coming to her the Holy Spirit filled her with grace for herself; when the same Spirit pervaded her again, She became superabundant and redounding in grace for us also.”

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Mary is the Mother of the Church not only because She is the Mother of Christ and His most intimate associate in “the new economy when the Son of God took a human nature from her, that He might in the mysteries of His flesh free man from sin,”1 but also because “She shines forth to the whole community of the elect as a model of the virtues.2

Cooperator in the development of divine life in souls

Indeed, just as no human mother can limit her task to the generation of a new man but must extend it to the function of nourishing and educating her offspring, thus the blessed Virgin Mary, after participating in the redeeming sacrifice of the Son, and in such an intimate way as to deserve to be proclaimed by Him the Mother not only of His disciple John but – may we be allowed to affirm it – of mankind which he in some way represents, now continues to fulfil from heaven her maternal function as the cooperator in the birth and development of divine life in the individual souls of redeemed men.

This is a most consoling truth which, by the free consent of the all-wise God, is an integrating part of the mystery of human salvation; therefore it must be held as faith by all Christians. […]

Perfect and exemplary correspondence to grace

Furthermore, it is well to bear in mind that Mary’s eminent sanctity was not only a singular gift of divine liberality. It was also the fruit of the continuous and generous cooperation of her free will in the inner motions of the Holy Spirit.

It is because of the perfect harmony between divine grace and the activity of her human nature that the Virgin rendered supreme glory to the Most Holy Trinity and became the illustrious ornament of the Church, which thus greets her in sacred Liturgy:

“You are the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel, the honor of our people.”

Mary’s eminent sanctity was the fruit of the continuous cooperation of her free will in the inner motions of the Holy Spirit

Let us then admire in the pages of the Gospel the testimonies of such sublime harmony. Mary, as soon as She was reassured by the voice of the Angel Gabriel that God had chosen her as the unblemished mother of His Only-begotten Son, unhesitatingly gave her consent to a work which would have engaged all the energies of her fragile nature and declared: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38).

From that moment, She consecrated all of herself to the service not only of the heavenly Father and of the Word Incarnate, who had become her Son, but also to all mankind, having clearly understood that Jesus, in addition to saving His people from the slavery of sin, would become the King of a messianic Kingdom, universal and eternal (cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:33). […]

Praise and imitation of their sublime virtue

Before such splendor of virtue, the first duty of all those who recognize in the Mother of Christ the model of the Church, is to unite themselves to her in giving thanks to the Most High for working great things in Mary for the benefit of all mankind.

But this is not enough. It is also the duty of all the faithful to pay as tribute to the most faithful handmaid of the Lord, a veneration of praise, of gratitude and of love because, by a wise and mild divine provision, her free consent and her generous cooperation in the designs of God had, and still have, a great influence in the attainment of human salvation. […]

Neither the grace of the divine Redeemer, nor the powerful intercession of His Mother and our spiritual Mother, nor yet her sublime sanctity, could lead us to the port of salvation if we did not respond to them by our persevering will to honor Jesus Christ and the Holy Virgin with our devout imitation of their sublime virtue.

It is therefore the duty of all Christians to imitate in a reverent spirit the examples of goodness left to them by their heavenly Mother. […]

Summit of the Old Testament and dawn of the New

If we then contemplate the Virgin of Nazareth in the halo of her prerogative and of her virtues, we will see her shine before our eyes as the “New Eve,” the exalted daughter of Sion, the summit of the Old Testament and the dawn of the New, in which “the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4) was realized, which was preordained by God for the mission in the world of His Only-begotten Son.

In truth, the Virgin Mary, more than all the patriarchs and prophets, more than the “righteous and devout” Simeon, implored and obtained “the consolation of Israel […] the Lord’s Christ” (Lk 2:25-26) and then greeted His advent with the hymn of Magnificat when He descended into her most chaste womb to take on our flesh.

Overflowing receptacle of grace

It is in Mary, therefore, that the Church of Christ indicates the example of the worthiest way of receiving in our spirits the Word of God, in accordance with the luminous sentence of St. Augustine: “Mary was therefore more blessed in receiving the faith in Christ than in conceiving the flesh of Christ. Accordingly, maternal consanguinity would not have benefited Mary if She had not felt more fortunate in having Christ in her heart than in her womb.” […]

Her free and generous cooperation in the designs of God had and still have a great influence in the attainment of human salvation

What must stimulate the faithful even more to follow the examples of the most holy Virgin is the fact that Jesus himself, by giving her to us as our Mother, has tacitly indicated her as the model to be followed. It is, in fact, a natural thing that the children should have the same sentiments as their mothers and should reflect their merits and virtues.

Therefore, as each one of us can repeat with St. Paul: “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself up for me,” (Gal 2:20; cf. Eph 5: 2) so in all trust he can believe that the divine Savior has left to him also, in spiritual heritage, His Mother, with all the treasures of grace and virtues with which He had endowed her, that She may pour them over us through the influence of her powerful intercession and our willing imitation.

This is why St. Bernard rightly affirms: “Coming to her the Holy Spirit filled her with grace for herself; when the same Spirit pervaded her again, She became superabundant and redounding in grace for us also.” ◊

Excerpts from: ST. PAUL VI.
Signum Magnum, 13/5/1967


1 SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL. Lumen Gentium, n.55.

2 Idem, n.65.

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