In Book 4, in the sections on Songs 2:10-12, Apponius talks a lot about the things that happened in the Bible in Spring.
‘… after brumal and icy harshness, He shows [her] the flowery Springtime of His Coming…
‘Therefore, just as all the renewed creatures rejoice at Winter fleeing from the unexpected arrival of Spring, the forerunner of Summer; and just as all animals “according to their kind” (Gen. 1:21) prepare for newborns; and when heavy with child, they construct dens; and birds put together nests, and with their voices they call out to each other from their private homes in the mountains; where now the ground prepares a banquet for the “creeping things,” (Gen. 1:20, 25) nor is food lacking for the feather-bearing animals; where the voice of singing on high resounds with sweet tones; and the sting-weaponed bee goes forth to loot the flowers; even so, our Lord Christ, after the horrid Winter of idolatry, adorns the face of the earth with philosophic doctrine at the season of Spring, and with the flower of the works of the martyrs and of all the saints, through His Passion (which is our Passover, our passing over from death into life).
‘In this season, “in the beginning,” (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1) it is understood that all creatures were created, and Man himself was created from the mud of the earth. In this season, Jacob was called back from Mesopotamia to his own seat. In this season, the children of Israel were led “out of Egypt”, and in a figure of Christ, He shut out the destroyer of Egypt with the blood of a lamb or a goat. In this season, they entered into the Land of Promise by crossing the Jordan.
‘At this season, by His example of death, Christ our redeemer called the Church out of the “vale of tears” (Ps. 83:7/84:6) onto the mountain of Paradise, saying, “Arise, hurry, my ladyfriend, my lovely one, and come, for now the winter has passed away” — that is, the power of the shadows, which delivered depression to the world, passes out of this world and into Tartarus, at the coming of the Sun of Justice.’
And then we get into the Annunciation and the Visitation, both of which also happened in Spring.
‘“The voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” (Sgs. 2:12) The voice of this most chaste bird is fitting for the summer of glorious virginity; it was first “heard in our land” in the aforementioned season, through the Virgin Mary saying to the Angel Gabriel, “How can this be, when I will not know man?” (Lk. 1:34, VL)* and “Behold, all generations shall call me blessed, because He Who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.” (Lk. 1:48-49)
(*”Quomodo hoc erit, cum virum non cognoscam?” where the Vulgate has “Quomodo fiet istud, quoniam virum non cognosco?” Apponius often uses Old Latin translations.)
‘The angel responded to this voice by explaining the birth of the most sacred Mystery – how that “without the law” (Rom. 3:21, which continues “the Justice of God is made manifest”), the embraced one would be conceived, and would be delivered without the pain of “sorrow.” (Gen. 3:16). The “power”, he said, “of the Most High shall overshadow you… and… the Holy Spirit shall come down upon you. Therefore… the Holy One which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.” (Lk. 1:35)
‘And truly she is worthy that “all generations” call her alone “blessed”, who is glorious “among all women”; not only do those of diverse Gentile nations highly extol her, but also the wondering Powers of the heavens.
‘Let us rejoice – through her, life entered the world, death fled it, and the world was reconciled to God!
‘Through her, first, “the voice” of preserved virginity, of holy will, which was lost in the land of incontinence, “is heard in” the land of the curse, the land of the impious. About which David predicted, “Our land shall give its fruit” (Ps. 84:13/85:12) – especially the good “fruit” of goodwill, which nature received in the “First-Formed,” Adam (Wis. 7:1, 10:1).
‘For unless her will for preserved virginity existed, she would not have said, “How can this be, when I do not know man?”
‘For as long as the depressing and constricting winter season of collusion covered up the face of the world from all good seed, and the devil possessed the land in his power, this sweetest “voice of the turtledove” was not “heard in” the “land” – neither from glorious Mary nor from blessed John [the Baptist].
‘But where this great Sun of Justice has arisen, drawing to us the indulgence of summer fertility, “the voice of the turtledove” begins to be heard “in our land,” with the desire of preserving [bodily] integrity. And what before was named “[the land] of the impious,” now the Message of God deigns to call “her land” or “the Church’s land.” (cf. Is. 62:6)
‘For, as the other Persons are conjoined to the Holy Spirit; so of course she, Mary, had Him come down upon her; and of course he, John, while still in his mother’s womb, was filled with Him; and so they did not accommodate their wills to any other love.
‘For as the nature of turtledoves loves a wilderness dwelling, and resounds with a sweet voice when calling its mate, so these two call out to these abovementioned Persons: She saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word,” (Lk. 1:38); and he saying, “After me comes One Who existed before me, Whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.” (John 1:27, VL)
‘Therefore it is with just reason that virginity is compared to the most chaste bird, the turtledove. For it obtains first place in John and Mary.
‘For, conjoined at the same time to the Word of God and to the Holy Spirit, she never thought of any other mate, nor shared any desire for anyone else’s love except for His, to Whom she was found cemented [conglutinata].
‘But to Him, always [John] utters the voice of promise, and the voice of the mind, by which he promises to serve Him who was born.
‘Even as the love of the turtledove toward its unchanged-out mate moves it to serve with the affection of delight, so it is told (by the Physiologus) that it will never be joined to any other, after a dead mate; but for all the days of its life, it will seek the mate with whom it was once conjoined, desiring it.’
This is an unusual insight, because it points out that St. John the Baptist is also a virgin prophet, much like St. Jeremiah; whereas usually we focus on St. John the Evangelist being a male virgin.
But we do see, over and over again, that when a human is overwhelmed by having the Holy Spirit come upon him or her, that human becomes unconcerned with normal limits and abilities, and with what other people think. John seems to have had the Holy Spirit on him since before birth, and possibly constantly during his life. So of course his mind was always on service and making the road straight for Jesus, and his voice always speaking the promise that he had been sent to call out.
But the really bold idea is… that having the Holy Spirit come down upon a human being, and remain with him or her, is akin to sharing in the Undivided Union of the Three Persons of the Trinity.
I mean, how can you even picture that? Even those who experience great charisms have this hidden from them, in large part. It is too big for us to understand, at least now.
And yet, that is what the eternal life of the Blessed is.