Mary and the Holy Spirit:
Overshadowed by the Spirit (Incarnation)
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The charts below are direct quotes from Post-Vatican II Magisterial Documents concerning the theme, Overshadowed by the Spirit. These teachings of the Catholic Church may prove useful to include in talks, in homilies or for research. For the full title and document data, click on the abbreviation code (for example, BYM leads you to the document, Behold Your Mother). This will also lead you to the complete document on this website or assist you in locating it elsewhere.

For an index of the documents used in the study see: List of Magisterial Documents
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Documents III. Mary and the Holy Spirit / 1. Overshadowed by the Spirit (Incarnation)
Lumen Gentium, 1964
  • [gave birth] by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit 63
  • who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation 59
  • Christ...conceived of the Holy Spirit 65
  • [Christ] incarnated by the Holy Spirit from the Virgin Mary 52 [creed]
Creed, Paul VI, 1968
  • of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit 11
Behold Your Mother (USA), 1973
  • The merciful Father intervenes in human history to send the new Adam, born of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Spirit. 24
  • The vivifying power of the unseen Spirit overshadows the Virgin, and God is made visibly present as the Son of Mary. The Mother of Jesus is the new and perfect ark of the covenant. 27
  • In the strength of her faith, ... and in the power of the Spirit becomes the Mother of Jesus, Son of God in human flesh. 33 [See also115 ]
  • It was prophesied in the Old Testament that the Spirit would revivify all things, would create a new people, renew the face of the earth. The overshadowing Spirit who brings about the virginal conception of the Son of Mary is the same powerful Spirit. 48
  • Open to the overshadowing Spirit, as was the Virgin Mary, the Church receives the Word of God and brings forth life. 79
  • From the overshadowing of the Spirit, Christ is conceived; from the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit, Christ is born in His members who are the Church. 79 [See also 115]
  • Any correct understanding of Mary's role must be seen in connection with the predominant role of the Holy Spirit. ... St. Luke presents Mary as the humble woman overshadowed by the Holy Spirit in order that Christ be formed. "God sent his Son born of a woman..... that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Gal 4:4) (LG 52) 112
  • She brought forth Jesus by the power of the Spirit. So too, Jesus is brought forth and lives in us through the Spirit. [Discussed under Mother of the Church] 118
  • "Temple of the Holy Spirit," (LG 53) she continues to exercise a special influence.... 127

    [More on conceived by the Holy Spirit: 133, 135]

Marialis Cultus, 1974
  • A... not knowing man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit." (LG 63) 19
  • through the action of the Holy Spirit, has become Mother of the Incarnate Word 22
  • [The Fathers contemplated:] "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with his shadow" (Lk. 1:35) and "[Mary] was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.... She has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit." (Mt. 1: 18, 20) 26
  • [the Fathers] saw in the Spirit's intervention an action that consecrated and made fruitful Mary's virginity (Ambrose, etc) and transformed her into the "Abode of the King" or "Bridal Chamber of the Word," (ibid) the "Temple" or "Tabernacle of the Lord," (Jerome, etc) the "Ark of the Covenant" or "the Ark of Holiness," (Severus of Antioch, etc) titles rich in biblical echoes. 26
  • Above all [the Fathers] had recourse to the Virgin's intercession in order to obtain from the Spirit the capacity for engendering Christ in their own soul, as is attested to by Saint Il dephonsus in a prayer of supplication, amazing in its doctrine and prayerful power: "I beg you, holy Virgin, that I may have Jesus from the Holy Spirit, by whom you brought Jesus forth. May my soul receive Jesus through the Holy Spirit by whom your flesh conceived Jesus.... May I love Jesus in the Holy Spirit in whom you adore Jesus as Lord and gaze upon Him as your Son." 26
Catechesi Tradendae, 1979
  • The Virgin of Pentecost 73
Ephesus, 1550th Anniversary, 1981
  • The most Blessed Virgin is she who, by the overshadowing of the power of the Trinity, was the creature most closely associated with the work of salvation. 3
  • The incarnation of the Word took place beneath her heart, by the power of the Holy Spirit. 3
  • The two phrases in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto and Credo in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et Vivificantem, remind us that the greatest work of the Holy Spirit, one to which all the others unceasingly refer as a source from which they draw, is that of the incarnation of the Eternal Word by the power of the Spirit from the Virgin Mary. 8
Dominum et Vivificantem, 1986
  • The Virgin Mary, who "had conceived by the Holy Spirit," (cf. 1:35) 16
  • And this Incarnation of the Son-Word came about "by the power of the Holy Spirit." The two Evangelists to whom we owe the narrative of the birth and infancy of Jesus of Nazareth express themselves on this matter in an identical way. According to Luke, at the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus, Mary asks: "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" and she receives this answer: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you: therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." (Lk 1:34f)
    Matthew narrates directly: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way ... she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit." (Mt 1:18) Joseph receives the following explanation in a dream: "Do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (Mt 1:20f) 49
Redemptoris Mater, 1987
    Incarnation
    • formed in her virgin womb the human nature of Christ. 1
    • "through the power of the Holy Spirit was born of the Virgin Mary" (Creed) 5
    • [election] "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." (Lk. 1:35) 9 [See also 12, 31]

      Aspects beyond Incarnation itself

    • (Acts 1: 14). "We see Mary prayerfully imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation." (LG 59) 24 [Also 26, 38]
    • in the redemptive economy of grace, brought about through the action of the Holy Spirit, there is a unique correspondence between the moment of the Incarnation of the Word and the moment of the birth of the Church. The person who links these two moments is Mary: Mary at Nazareth and Mary in the Upper Room at Jerusalem. In both cases her discreet yet essential presence indicates the path of "birth from the Holy Spirit." Thus she who is present in the mystery of Christ as Mother becomes-by the will of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit-present in the mystery of the Church. 24, 44
    • "all the saving influences of the Blessed Virgin...." (LG 60) This saving influence is sustained by the Holy Spirit, who, just as he overshadowed the Virgin Mary when he began in her the divine motherhood, in a similar way constantly sustains her solicitude for the brothers and sisters of her Son. 38
Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday, 1988
  • The Incarnation was brought about by the Holy Spirit when he came down upon the Virgin of Nazareth and she spoke her fiat in response to the angel's message. (cf. Lk 1:38) 1
The VM in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation, 1988
  • conceived the Son of God in his human nature in her virginal womb through the action of the Holy Spirit. (cf. LG 57,61) 7
  • Through the power of the same Spirit (cf. LK 1:35) she conceived in her virginal womb and gave Jesus Christ to the world. (cf. LG, 52,63,65) 8
  • Persevering with them in one accord, we see Mary prayerfully imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation. (LG 59) 8
Mulieris Dignitatem, 1988
  • [see Annunciation in more detail] Only by the power of the Holy Spirit, who "overshadowed" her, was Mary able to accept what is "impossible with men, but not with God." (cf. Mk 10:27) 3
  • The particular union of the "Theotokos" with God .... is a pure grace and, as such, a gift of the Spirit. [see also free will] 4
  • explanation: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you" - your motherhood will not be the consequence of matrimonial "knowledge," but will be the work of the Holy Spirit: the "power of the Most High" will "overshadow" the mystery of the Son's conception and birth.... 17 [See Also 20]
  • This "prophetic" character of women in their femininity finds its highest expression in the Virgin Mother of God. She emphasizes, in the fullest and most direct way, the intimate linking of the order of love - which enters the world of human persons through a Woman - with the Holy Spirit. At the Annunciation Mary hears the words: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you." (Lk 1:35) 29
Redemptoris Custos, St. Joseph, 1989
  • "Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit." (Mt 1:18) 2
  • However, the origin of Mary's pregnancy "of the Holy Spirit" is described more fully and explicitly in what Luke tells us about the annunciation of Jesus' birth: "The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary." (Lk 1:26-7) 2
  • The angel responds: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the son of God." (Lk 1:35) 2
  • "...for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit...." (Mt 1:20)2
  • The divine messenger introduces Joseph to the mystery of Mary's motherhood. While remaining a virgin, she who by law is his "spouse: has become a mother through the power of the Holy Spirit. 3
Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 1994
  • Two thousand years ago the Son of God was made man by the power of the Holy Spirit and was born of the Immaculate virgin Mary. 26
  • Mary, who conceived the Incarnate Word by the power of the Holy Spirit.... 48
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994
Fidei Depositum, 1992
The Apostles' Creed: He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
The Nicene Creed: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

437 ... God called Joseph to "take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit," so that Jesus, "who is called Christ," should be born of Joseph's spouse into the messianic lineage of David. (Mt 1:20 et al)

456 With the Nicene Creed, we answer by confessing: "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man."

504 Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary's womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: "The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven." (1 Cor 15:45, 47) From his conception, Christ's humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God "gives him the Spirit without measure." (Jn 3:34) From "his fullness" as the head of redeemed humanity "we have all received, grace upon grace." (Jn 1:16; cf. Col 1:18)

695 Anointing. ... But Jesus is God's Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as "Christ." (cf.. Lk 4:18-19) The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord. (cf. Lk 2:11, 26-27)

697 Cloud and light. These two images occur together in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.... In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and "overshadows" her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus. (Lk 1:35)

723 In Mary, the Holy Spirit fulfills the plan of the Father's loving goodness. With and through the Holy Spirit, the Virgin conceives and gives birth to the Son of God. By the Holy Spirit's power and her faith, her virginity became uniquely fruitful. (cf. Lk 1:26-38)

[See also 494]

Vita Consecrata, 1996
  • [see also theme femininity 34]
Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 2002
  • No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit. 10
Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 2003
  • Mary was asked to believe that the One whom she conceived "through the Holy Spirit" was "the Son of God." (Lk 1:30-35) In continuity with the Virgin's faith, in the Eucharistic mystery we are asked to believe that the same Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, becomes present in his full humanity and divinity under the signs of bread and wine. 55

© This material has been compiled by M. Jean Frisk.
Copyright is reserved for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.

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