The Overshadowing of the Holy Spirit

Icon of the Mother of God “the Unburnt Bush”

Icon of the Mother of God “the Unburnt Bush”

At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel said to the Virgin Mary: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women”; and again: “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God”; and yet again: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee” (Luke 1:28, 30, 35). We may well ask how can these things be? In what manner was she prepared for the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, and can we prepare ourselves in like manner?

St. Innocent of Alaska (August 26, 1797 – March 31, 1879) writes of how we too can receive the Holy Spirit.

The true and recognized means of receiving the Holy Spirit, according to the teaching of Holy Scripture and the experiences of great saints, are the following: (1) purity of heart and chastity, (2) humility, (3) listening to the voice of God, (4) prayer, (5) daily self-denial, (6) reading and listening to Holy Scripture, and (7) the sacraments of the Church, and especially Holy Communion.

Every faithful soul is filled with the Holy Spirit, if she is cleansed of her sins and not encumbered or closed by self-love and pride. For the Holy Spirit always surrounds us and wishes to fill us, but our evil deeds that surround us like a hard stone wall are like evil guards that do not allow Him to come near us and keep Him away from us. Every sin can keep the Holy Spirit away from us, but bodily impurity and spiritual pride are especially repellent to Him. The Holy Spirit, Who is the most perfect purity, cannot possibly be in a man defiled by sins. How can He be in our heart when it is filled and encumbered by different cares, desires, and passions? (St. Innocent of Alaska (2013-02-01). Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven: An Introduction to Christian Life (Kindle Locations 624-631). Holy Trinity Publications. Kindle Edition.)


The Annunciation

The following commentary is by Blessed Theophylact.

The Ohrid Annunciation of Our Lord

The Ohrid Annunciation

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God (Luke 1:26-30).

The sixth month means the sixth month after John’s conception. The Evangelist says that the virgin was betrothed to a man of the house of David, to show that she too was descended from the tribe and lineage of David. For it was the law that husband and wife should be of the same tribe and the same lineage. Because the Lord had once said to Eve, In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, that sorrow is now removed by the joy which the angel offers to the woman, saying to her, Rejoice, though who art full of grace. Since Eve had been cursed, now Mary hears herself blessed. She considered in her mind what sort of salutation this might be surely not an unseemly and provocative greeting as from a forward man to a young maiden? Or was it perhaps a divine salutation, since God was mentioned together with the greeting, The Lord is with thee. First the angel calms the fear in her heart, so that she might hear the divine decision when she was peaceful and untroubled. While she was troubled, she would not be able to hear and understand clearly the things that would take place. When the angel said to her, Thou who art full of grace, it is as if he were saying, “Thou has found grace and favor in the sight of God, and thou art pleasing to God.” This is not out of the ordinary, for there were many other women who had found favor with God.

(Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria. The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to Luke. Chrysostom Press. 2007, 14-15)