Ave Maria Meditations
Just as the Holy Spirit dwelt in the most holy soul of Christ in order to bring it to God, so He abides in our souls for the same purpose. In Jesus He found a completely docile will, one that He could control perfectly, whereas in us He often meets resistance, the fruit of human weakness; therefore, He desists from the work of our sanctification because He will not do violence to our liberty. He, the Spirit of love, waits for us to co-operate lovingly in His work, yielding our soul to His sanctifying action freely and ardently. In order to become saints, we must concur in the work of the Holy Spirit; but since effective concurrence is impossible without an understanding of the promoter’s actions, it is necessary for us to learn how the divine Paraclete, the promoter of our sanctification, works in us.
We must realize that the Holy Spirit is ever active in our souls, from the earliest stages of the spiritual life and even from its very beginning, although at that time in a more hidden and imperceptible way. However, His very precious action was there, and it consisted especially in the preparing and encouraging of our first attempts to acquire perfection. By giving us grace, without which we could have done nothing to attain sanctity, the Holy Spirit inaugurated His work in us: He elevated us to the supernatural state. Grace comes from God; it is a gift from all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity: a gift created by the Father, merited by the Son in consequence of His Incarnation, Passion and death, and diffused in our souls by the Holy Spirit. But is to the latter, to the Spirit of love, that the work of our sanctification is attributed in a very special manner.
When we were baptized, we were justified “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”; nevertheless, Sacred Scripture particularly attributes this work of regeneration and divine filiation to the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself pointed out to us that Baptism is a rebirth “of … the Holy Spirit” (John 3,5), and St Paul stated: “For in one Spirit were we all baptized” and “the Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God” (1 Corinthians 12, 13 — Romans 8,16). Therefore, it is the Holy Spirit who has prepared and disposed our souls for the supernatural life by pouring forth grace in us.
Besides this, in order to enable us to perform the supernatural acts, the Holy Spirit comes to strengthen our powers — the intellect and the will — by the infused virtues: charity, together with the other theological virtues of faith and hope, and the moral virtues. Thus, through His intervention, we become capable of performing supernatural acts. But the Holy Spirit does not stop there; like a good teacher, He continues to help us in our work, urging us to do good and sustaining our efforts. He invites us by His interior inspirations, as well as by exterior means, especially Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church. Sacred Scripture is the word of God, written by men under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is the divine Paraclete who speaks to us therein, enlightening our intellects with His light and spurring our wills by His motions; hence, meditation on the sacred texts is somewhat like “attending the school” of the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, the Holy Spirit continually teaches us and stimulates us to do good by the living word of the Church, since all those in the Church who have the mission to teach are under His influence when they expound sacred doctrine to the faithful. If we listen to the inspirations of the divine Paraclete, and accept His invitations, He unites Himself to us, aiding us by actual graces, so that we are able to perform virtuous acts. It is clear, therefore, that even when the spiritual life is in its first stages, and is concentrated on the correcting of faults and acquiring of virtues, the activity of the soul is entirely permeated and sustained by the action of the Holy Spirit. We give too little attention to this truth and therefore, in practice, we tend to ignore the constant work of the divine Spirit in our souls. Let us give thought to this, lest His inspirations and impulses go unheeded. “By the grace of God, I am what I am” said St Paul, and he could add: “His grace in me hath not been void.” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
“O Holy Spirit, divine Guest of our souls, You are the noblest and most worthy of all guests! With the agility of Your goodness and love for us, You fly rapidly to all souls who are disposed to receive You. And who can tell the wonderful effects produced by you when you are welcomed? You speak, but without noise of words, and Your sublime silence is heard everywhere. You are always motionless, yet always in movement, and in Your mobile immobility, You communicate Yourself to all. You are always at rest, yet ever working; and in Your rest You perform the greatest, worthiest and most admirable works. You are always moving, but You never change Your place. You penetrate, strengthen and preserve all. Your immense, penetrating omniscience knows all, understands all, penetrates all. Without listening to anything, You hear the least word spoken in the most secret recesses of our hearts.
“O Holy Spirit, You stay everywhere unless You are driven out, because You communicate Yourself to everyone, except to sinners who do not want to rise from the mire of their sins; in them You can find no place to rest, nor can You endure the evil emanating from a heart which obstinately persists in wrongdoing. But You remain in the creatures who, by their purity, make themselves receptive to Your gifts. And You rest in me by communication, operation, wisdom, power, liberality, benignity, charity, love, purity; Your creature, You Yourself prepare him suitably to receive You.” (St Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi)