Apparition and Spirit
The Annunciation and the virginal conception
From the beginning of the era of spiritual kinship, the phase
of peace of each new cycle is subdivided into three phases: the phase of apparition,
the phase of arrival of the Holy Spirit and the phase of growth. These phases are
as typical as the known ones and allow very revealing conclusions, notably on the
Holy Virgin and her apparitions.
As we have seen in The life of Jesus Christ, the first
cycle of the fourth era consisted of the mission, the Passion and the resurrection
of Jesus. This cycle began with the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the angel Gabriel,
the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38). Because of the celestial origin of Gabriel,
his encounter with St. Mary has to be qualified as an apparition. Another important
point is that, according to Gabriel, the conception of Jesus had not to be natural
but spiritual: “The Holy Spirit will come open you, and the power of the Most-High
will overshadow you. Therefore the holy child to be born will be called the Son
of God” (Lk 1:34-35).
There is some evidence that the moment of this conception happened
when Mary pronounced the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55): Gabriel also announced to
Mary the pregnancy of Elizabeth (Lk 1:36-37). This is why Mary’s first thought
after the Annunciation was to visit her relative. So when Mary arrived, Elizabeth
was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and said to her: “Blessed are you among
women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:39-45). Mary replied:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy is one those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree,
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity forever
Since Elizabeth was already “filled with the Holy Spirit”,
all the more Mary must have spoken under God’s Spirit, just as Zechariah (Lk 1:67-79)
and Simeon (Lk 2:25-32), even though it is not mentioned explicitly. However,
it may be exactly through this omission that Luke states that the Magnificat is
different from the other spiritual speeches through the overshadowing of the Most-High
(Lk 1:35). Various expressions of the Magnificat confirm this, as for example:
“For behold, henceforth all generations
will call me blessed...”. She is blessed because she is the Mother of Jesus.
So since she is blessed “henceforth”, it is evident that in the same instant
she became Jesus’ Mother. This means that the Holy Spirit came upon her, provoking
the conception of Jesus, when she spoke these words.
The place where this happened supports this thesis: Mary “went
with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah” to visit Elizabeth (Lk 1:39).
This city was therefore close to Jerusalem. Indeed, it was always in Jerusalem or
in its proximity that God came into this world or left it: Jesus was born in Bethlehem,
which is also found in the mountainous region of Judah (Lk 2:4). He ascended
into Heaven on the Mount of Olives, distanced from Jerusalem only “a Sabbath
day’s walk” (Ac 1:12),
to return one day in the same manner (Ac 1:11-12). In the same city, the Holy
Spirit descended on the Apostles (Ac 2:1-6). So we can suppose that the conception
of the Son of God did not happen in the city where Mary lived, that is, in Nazareth
(Lk 1:26), which is far from Jerusalem, and at a moment we would ignore. On
the contrary, Jesus’ conception must be a known and testified event. This is why
the Visitation was certainly more than a simple visit.
Consequently, a certain time passed between the Annunciation and
Jesus’ conception, which allows us to distinguish the phase of apparition from the
phase of arrival of the Spirit. Then Jesus is born. This is yet another phase, to
which belongs also the time until his public mission, approximately thirty years
after. This phase is characterized by the growth of what has been sown by the Spirit.
Then follow the other phases of Jesus’ life cycle: crucifixion, judgment and resurrection.
The apparitions of the Lord and Pentecost
The apparitions of Jesus during forty days (Ac 1:2) form
part of the following cycle as the phase of apparition, which ended with the Ascension.
During these apparitions, Jesus announced the arrival of the Spirit to his disciples
(Lk 24:49; Ac 1:8), the Counselor, who replaced the presence of Jesus
on earth after his departure to Heaven (Jn 16:7). This was realized with Pentecost
(Ac 2:1-21), which of course equals the phase of arrival of the Spirit.
It is often said that the Church was born at this moment. Yet
this is vague, for it was only conceived, the birth belonging to the phase of growth.
We can compare this with the birth of a human being, whose conception up to the
age of full maturity, which varies according to biological and psychological criteria,
belongs to a coherent period of constant growth. Nevertheless, the birth inaugurates
a step that distinguishes itself from the stay in the mother’s womb because at this
moment a baby emerges from the dark and what was invisible becomes visible.
The same is true for the primitive Church of Jerusalem, which
only became visible and exteriorized with the first Council, uniting St. Paul, the
Apostles and a lot of other people to examine the question whether Christians should
be circumcised and observe the Mosaic Law (Ac 15:1-6). The decision was the
liberation of this Law except for some details, which were formulated in writing
(Ac 15:7-30). Only through such measures was the Church, the mystical body
of Christ, born to increasingly become a sacramental and visible institution.
As summarized by figure 24, the analogy between the first
and second cycles is emphasized by the two new phases such that the question quite
naturally arises whether the third and fourth cycle also include the two phases
of apparition and arrival of the Spirit. As for the third cycle, it is difficult
to reply because the historical record of the life of the Christians during the
Roman empire is fragmentary. Though, some sources acknowledge that the apparitions
of the Virgin go back to the first centuries of our era.
Concerning the fourth cycle, there are many apparitions of St. Mary. More of their
role in salvation history is discussed in the sections below.
|Phase of apparition
||Announcement of Jesus’ birth by Gabriel
||Jesus appears during
|Phase of Spirit
||Virginal conception of Jesus
|Phase of growth
||The life of Jesus
||The Church of Jerusalem
|Phase of sin
||Arrest, flagellation and crucifixion of Jesus
Christians by the Jews
|Phase of judgment
||Darkening of the sun, earthquake, etc.
||Siege of Jerusalem by
|Phase of revival
||Reception of the Gospel by the Pagans
Figure 24: Comparison between the phases of the first
and second cycle.
The purpose of the phase of apparition
Salvation consists of rebirth through the Spirit, who does not,
however, come unexpectedly. His reception requires preparation. This explains the
purpose of the Annunciation: the angel Gabriel prepared the Virgin to receive the
Holy Spirit. Without this preparation, she would not have visited Elizabeth and
felt the anticipated joy necessary for Jesus’ conception. This joy comes from the
faith in the announced words. As we have seen, St. Mary perfectly believed in what
Gabriel predicted for her and thus distinguishes herself from Eve, who did not believe
in God’s word but let herself be seduced by the lies of the snake, that is to say,
of Satan, who appeared to Eve. In this sense, the Annunciation is the counter-part
of this devilish manifestation. So in order to receive the Spirit it is necessary
to have faith.
The apparitions of the Lord during forty days served to establish
faith as well. Although Jesus healed blind people, paraplegics, mutes, lepers, possessed
people, and even resuscitated Lazarus before the eyes of his disciples, they hesitated
to believe what Jesus told and retold them. For example, they did not place faith
in his numerous announcements that he would die and be resuscitated on the third
day (Mt 16:21-23; 17:22-23; 20:17-19), for if they had believed him, they would
not have left him at his Passion (Mt 26:31-35). Even when the women told them
that they had found the tomb empty and seen two angels reproaching them: “Why
do you seek the Living among the dead?”, they refused to believe, qualifying
their purposes as “nonsense” (Lk 24:1-11).
Only Jesus’ apparitions gave faith to his disciples, although
they were still hesitant, as the example of Thomas illustrates (Jn 20:19-29).
Thus, their sadness was changed into joy and their joy became “complete”
getting to the point to “ask and receive” (Jn 16:20-26). This happened
after the Ascension when they were “constantly in the temple to bless God”
(Lk 24:51-53; Ac 1:1-14). This is why the Spirit, whom they had to receive,
did not delay and came upon them at Pentecost completing their joy (Ac 2:1-21).
The sense of the apparitions consequently resides in obtaining faith
as preparation for the reception of the Spirit. So two persons are necessary in
order to be born from above, namely the one who appears and God who sends his Spirit.
This allows an important comparison: the spiritual birth is indeed the second birth
and is prefigured by the first one, which we owe to our natural mother and father.
Since God the Father sending his Spirit holds the paternal role at this second birth,
the appearing person accordingly assumes the maternal role.
THE DAUGHTER OF ZION
THE FREE WOMAN