“For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.” — Matthew 1:20

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Cycle A. Readings:

1) Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 24:1-6

2) Romans 1:1-7

Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

On more than one occasion, I’ve heard the Holy Spirit described as the “forgotten” member of the Trinity — and I can understand why. As a cradle Catholic, I think the only time I heard anyone preach or teach about the Holy Spirit was on Pentecost Sunday and at my confirmation, although in every sign of the cross the Holy Spirit is certainly mentioned. But in today’s readings, the Spirit of God is front and center.

Reminiscent of the Genesis account of creation and the Spirit “sweeping over the waters,” today’s responsorial psalm describes the earth and its fullness as being “founded … upon the seas.” In the great tradition of the prophets of Israel, Isaiah prophesies in the power of the Spirit that a “virgin shall conceive, and bear a son.”

But most striking is the role of the Holy Spirit in the pivotal event of human history: the incarnation of the Son of God in the womb of Mary. Twice, Matthew’s Gospel states that this happened “through the Holy Spirit,” and this claim is borne out in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel and also professed in the Nicene Creed.

We’re not talking about some anonymous, shadowy “force” that is the stuff of science fiction. In fact, Scripture describes a divine being so intensely personal that Mary has been identified as the “spouse” of the Holy Spirit in an ongoing, eternal relationship. In other words, it is the unique union of Mary and the Holy Spirit that made Jesus’ incarnation and birth possible — not only as a past historical event but continually and eternally (wrap your mind around that one!).

When we’re not overwhelmed with holiday hype, we Catholics tend to think of Advent as simply a religious preparation for Christmas, a one-time occurrence until Dec. 25 rolls around again. In truth, Advent is an anticipatory celebration of the unceasing entry of Emmanuel, “God … with us,” into our hearts and lives. It’s the Holy Spirit that accomplishes this, and when it occurs — if we’re awake and alert — it’s unforgettable.

QUESTIONS:  What is your relationship with the Holy Spirit? How does Mary’s title, “Spouse of the Holy Spirit,” give you new insight about the mother of Jesus?