THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE
Lesson 2: Chapter 1:39 – 1:56
Preparation for the Messiah: the Annunciation and Visitation
We thank You and praise You for Your faithfulness to Your covenant people. You made the promise through Your prophet Isaiah that would be a sign for all humanity: the virgin of the house of David was to bear a son and who will be called “God is with us.” That promise was fulfilled by the Virgin Mary in the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ who, before His Ascension to Your heavenly throne room, told His disciples and all generations of disciples: “I AM with you always …” It is a promise that gives us strength and faith as Jesus is with us “nourishing us through His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity “on our journey to the Promised Land of Heaven. Send Your Holy Spirit, Lord, to guide us in our lesson on St. Luke’s account of the preparation for coming of the Redeemer-Messiah. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with a child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
… behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that the child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”
St. Matthew’s birth narrative is told in five parts. Each part concludes by making a connection to Old Testament prophecy in a fulfillment statement followed by a quotation of the prophetic passage concerning the coming of the Messiah (see Mt 1:28-25; 2:1-12, 13-15, 16-18 and 19-23). St. Luke is not as direct, but his references to the promises of the prophets concerning the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah are none the less there. We saw the first reference in the angel’s words to Zechariah when Gabriel quoted directly from the prophet Malachi. Gabriel told Zechariah that the child was to come in the spirit and power of the 8thcentury BC prophet Elijah (allusion to Malachi 23:22-23/4:5). Then the angel quoted directly from that passage by saying that the child was destined: to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” The Malachi passage reads: … to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, least I come and strike the land with doom.
Quoting a few words of the passage was intended to turn the attention of Zechariah (and the readers of Luke’s Gospel) to the Malachi prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. The name of the angel and his quote from that prophetic passage was enough for the priest Zechariah to understand the mission of his son. Nor would the importance of that line from St. Luke’s Gospel be lost on Jewish or Gentile Christians like Theophilus who had been properly catechized in the teachings that Jesus imparted to His Church through His Apostles and disciples during His forty days among them after His Resurrection and before His Ascension (Acts 1:3).
Question: During Jesus’ first day with His Apostles and disciples after His Resurrection, what did He teach them? See Lk 1:3-4; 24:25-26, 44-49.
Answer: He taught them everything that was written in the books of the prophets that was about Him.
This lesson continues with St. Luke’s birth narrative which, like St. Matthew’s birth narrative, is presented in 5 parts:
- The announcement of St. John’s birth (Lk 1:5-25)
- The announcement of Jesus’ birth (Lk 1:26-38)
- The Visitation (Lk 1:39-56)
- The birth of John the Baptist (Lk 1:57-80)
- The birth of Jesus (Lk 2:1-21)
Luke 1:26-38 ~ The announcement of Jesus’ birth (the Annunciation)
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one [greetings/rejoice, has been graced]! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” 35 And the angel said to her in reply, “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. 36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God.” 38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
[..] = literal translation (Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke, page 345-46).
Luke 1:26-27 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
It is the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin named Mary. In Hebrew her name is Miriam. Mary lived in the insignificant village of Nazareth in the lower Galilee. Nazareth is located just north of the fertile Jezreel Valley, 15 miles east from the Sea of Galilee, and 20 miles from the Mediterranean Sea to the west.(1)
Question: What other woman in Israel’s history bore the same name from the Exodus generation? When has this family connection been mentioned previously? See Lk 1:5, 36; Ex 6:20, 23; 15:20 and Num 26:59.
Answer: Mary/Miriam is the same name as Moses and Aaron’s sister. Both Elizabeth/Elisheba, who bears the same name as the wife or Aaron, Israel’s first high priest (Ex 6:23) and Mary/Miraim have a name connection and bloodline link to the great Exodus heroes and heroine: Aaron the first High Priest, his brother Moses the liberator, law-giver and prophet, and their sister, Miriam, Israel’s first prophetess (Ex 15:20).
Mary’s son is to be the “new Moses” promised by the prophets. He will be the new law-giver, the new liberator, and God’s supreme prophet that was promised to Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18-20: I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him. If any man will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it.
Notice that St. Luke makes a clear statement of Mary’s virginity, using the Greek word “virgin,” twice in this passage. It is the same Greek word (parthenos) for “virgin” that is used in the prophecy of the Old Testament Greek Septuagint (traditionally abbreviated as LXX) translation of Isaiah 7:14, a prophecy that designates “the” virgin and not “a” virgin (see the quotation from Isaiah 7:14 and St. Matthew’s fulfillment statement and quote of the same passage above).
Also notice how St. Luke’s Gospel links the priestly family of St. John the Baptist to the family of Mary of Nazareth.
Question: How are the families related? What is Mary’s lineage? See Ex 28:1; Lk 1:5, 32 and 36.
Answer: Zechariah’s wife is a kinswoman of Mary. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth are descendants of the first High Priest, Aaron, the brother of Moses (Ex 28:1; Lk 1:5). Therefore, as well as being a descendant of King David (Lk 1:32), Mary also has a link to the priestly bloodline (1:36).
Royal princesses of the Davidic line were known to marry priests (see 2 Chr 22:11; 2 Kng 11:1-3), and kings were known to marry the daughter of a high priest, including Herod who married the daughter of the High Priest Simon (Antiquities of the Jews, 17.78 [164-67]).
Mary is “betrothed” to a descendant of the great King David, a man named Joseph. A betrothal was the first stage of an arranged marriage and lasted about year (Mishnah: Ketubot, 5:2). The betrothal involved a ketuba, a formal contract in the presence of witnesses, in addition to the payment of the mohar, the “bride price” (see Mal 2:14). The second stage was when the bridegroom came to take the bride to his house. At that time there was a seven-day marriage feast with the consummation of the union on the first night (Gen 29:27-28; Judg 14:12-18; Mt 1:18; 25:1-13; Tob 8:20, 27; Mishnah: Ketubot, 4:4-5). The betrothal gave the groom legal rights over the girl and the contract could only be broken by him through a writ of divorce (seeMt 1:18-19).(2) Mary and Josephus were in the first stage of the marriage arrangements at the time of the Annunciation, and she was still a virgin.
Joseph’s Hebrew name is Yosep,a name meaning “let him add” (increase).
Question: What was significant about the name of Mary’s betrothed? See Gen 30:22-24. Answer: He was probably named for Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob/Israel and his wife Rachel.
Question: How were the Old Testament Joseph and the New Testament Joseph alike? See Gen 37:5-36; 40:5-23; 41:14-32;Mt 1:18-21; 2:13, 19-20.
Answer: They were alike in that they were both descendants of Jacob/Israel, they both lived under the domination of a foreign power (the first Joseph ruled by the Egyptians and Joseph by the Romans), and they both received prophetic messages associated with dreams.
Once again the angel Gabriel was send by God. The Greek word angelos means “messenger.” It is the same word that is used in the New Testament to identify both spiritual messengers (for example see Mt 1:20, 24; 2:13, 19; Lk 1:11-38; Acts 5:19 and Rev 1:1), and human messengers (for example see Mt 11:10; Mk 1:2; Lk 7:27 and 2 Cor 12:7). The Greek word archangelos means “chief messenger,” and is usually translated as “archangel.” The Church identifies Gabriel as one of the seven Archangels who stand before the throne of God (Lk 1:19; Rev 8:2, 6; 15:1, 6, 7, 8; 16:1; 17:1 and 21:19).
Question: What are the similarities St. Luke has intentionally drawn between the birth announcements of St. John the Baptist the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth and Jesus the son of Mary and Son of God?
|1. The appearance of the angel Gabriel.||Luke 1:11||Luke 1:26-28|
|2. Zechariah’s concern and fear and Mary’s concern.||Luke 1:12||Luke 1:29|
|3. The angel’s command not to be afraid.||Luke 1:13||Luke 1:30|
|4. A heavenly message of a future birth.||Luke 1:13||Luke 1:31|
|5. The name of the child.||Luke 1:13||Luke 1:31|
| 6. The holy child’s mission announced:
John: he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
Jesus: He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.
|Luke 1:15-17||Luke 1:32-33|
| 7. John: will be filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb
Jesus:the Holy Spirit will come upon Mary and God will overshadow Mary.
|Luke 1:15||Luke 1:35|
| 8. John will come in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the people.
Jesus will come as David’s heir to rule forever.
|Luke 1:17||Luke 1:32-33|
|9. Zechariah and Mary question the angel.||Luke 1:18||Luke 1:34|
| 10. Each received a sign:
Zechariah’s sign was Gabriel’s name and to be dumb.
Mary’s sign was Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
|Luke 1:19-20||Luke 1:36-37|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2012|
Luke 1:26 … to a town of Galilee called Nazareth … Some scholars believe the etymology of the place-name Nazareth is related to the Hebrew word netzer, meaning “branch” or “shoot.” Other scholars suggest the name is related to the Hebrew word for “consecrate,” which is nazir (see Judg 13:5, 7).
Question: How might the suggested etymology of the place name Nazareth as netzer, meaning “branch/shoot,” relate to Jesus’ mission as the Messiah: Isaiah 11:1-2a RSV: There shall come forth a shoot [geza] from the stump of Jesse, a branch [netzer] shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the LORD will rest upon him. Also see Isaiah 11:1-2 and Rt 4:17?
Answer: Isaiah used the Hebrew word netzer, “branch,” as a reference to the promised Messiah who will be a descendant of the line of Jesse, the father of King David. It is fitting that He who is “the Branch” should spend His years growing up in a town called “branch.”
The connection to the Hebrew word netzer/neser as a Messianic title and Jesus being a Nazarene (from the city of Nazareth) may be what St. Matthew was referring to when he wrote inMatthew 2:23 that prophecy was fulfilled when Joseph decided to settle in Nazareth after the holy family’s return from Egypt: There he settled in a town called Nazareth [Nazaret]. In this way the words spoken through the prophets were to be fulfilled: He will be called a Nazarene.’ There is no prophecy in Scripture in which this phrase is found, but it could be a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy of “the branch/netzer” from Jesse. The “Branch” will become a messianic title for Jesus, using the Hebrew word netzerand the related words geza (Is 11:2), and tsemach (Is 4:2; Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zech 3:8; 6:12).
Luke 1:28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one [Hail, has been graced]! The Lord is with you.” The angel’s greeting to Mary is quite different from his greeting to Zechariah. Notice that Gabriel does not greet Zechariah with the same degree of respect and status as he did by giving Mary a title. The greeting is also unusual in that He does not begin with the typical Semitic greeting of shalom (peace), but with chare which can be translated “hail” or “rejoice” and by announcing Mary’s special status often translated as “full of grace” but the more literal translation is “had been graced.” The angel’s announcement in the literal Greek is: Chare, kecharitomene [kah-ray kay-kah-ree-toe-may-nay]. The angel addressed Mary by a title that was a past perfect participle of the Greek noun charis, meaning “grace”: kecharitomene= “has been graced” (Fitzmyer, Gospel of Luke, page 345). A past perfect participle indicates a condition that existed in the past and continues in the present. Mary has been perfected in and continues in grace. To be “graced” in the past tense is to never having been lacking in grace “an indication of Mary’s unique conception without original sin.
The most common rendering of this phrase is “full of grace.” It is a transliteration of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation of the text. However, while “full of grace” certainly describes Mary’s condition, it is not what was being expressed in the Greek past perfect participle verb kecharitomene. “Full of grace” in the Greek would be pleres chariots, as it is used for Christ in John 1:14and for St. Stephen in Acts 6:8. Mary’s title, kecharitomene, indicates a state which is beyond filled. In addressing Mary with this title, the angel is signifying that she possesses, and has always possessed, a plentitude of Divine grace (Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, page 268-69). That Mary was deeply disturbed by the angel’s greeting (Lk 1:29) is evidence that someone of her humble station had received a greeting and was addressed by a title that was highly unusual.
The Fathers and Doctors of the Church have taught what Pope Pius IX expressed in the encyclical Ineffabilis Deus: … this singular, solemn and unheard-of greeting showed that all the divine graces reposed in the Mother of God and that she was adorned with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This singular condition meant that Mary was never subject to the curse of original sin and that she was preserved from all sin. The theologically explosive words of the Archangel Gabriel constitute one of the important text sources which reveal the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus; and Paul VI, Creed of the People of God).
CCC 411: Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.
CCC 490: To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace.” In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.
CCC 491: Through the centuries the Church has become even more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” (quoting Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus; also see CCC 492-493; 722).
Question: On what day in the liturgical calendar does the Church celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception? What is our obligation concerning this feast day? See CCC 2042, 2177 (list of holy days), 2180-81.
Answer: December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. It is the obligation of all professing Catholics to attend the Mass celebrating this feast day. The obligation is listed under the first of the Church’s five precepts.
The angel’s greeting is also identifies Mary as the fulfillment of “the daughter of Zion” in the writings of the prophets. God’s holy prophets taught the nation of Israel that it was her destiny to give birth to the promised Redeemer-Messiah and now Mary, a daughter of Israel, was asked to fulfill that destiny. The prophet Zephaniah wrote: Shout for joy, daughter of Zion [chaire thygater Sion], Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice; exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! 15 Yahweh has repealed your sentence; he has turned your enemy away. Yahweh is king among you; Israel, you have nothing more to fear. 16When that Day comes, the message for Jerusalem will be: Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp. 17 Yahweh your God is there with you, the warrior-Savior (3:14-17 NJB).
[..] = Greek translation. Compare this passage with Luke 1:28-31.
Mary is the fulfillment of Israel’s destiny to produce the Redeemer-Messiah in St. Luke’s allusion to the “daughter of Zion” prophecy: Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person (CCC 2676)
(the angel Gabriel speaking)
|Zephaniah 3:14-17 NJB & LXX Greek
|“Chaire (Rejoice)” (Lk 1:28)||Chaire … thygater Sion “Rejoice daughter of Zion”
|“the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28)||“Yahweh is king among you” (Zeph 3:15b)|
|“Do not be afraid, Mary” (Lk 1:30)||“you have nothing more to fear… Zion have no fear” (Zeph 3:15-16)|
|“you will conceive in your womb” (Lk 1:31)||“Yahweh your God is there with you” (Zeph 3:17)|
|“Jesus” [Hebrew = Yahshua/Yehoshua = “Yahweh saves”] (Lk 1:31)||“the warrior-Savior” (Zeph 3:17)|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2012|
Luke 1:31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.
The angel Gabriel told Mary to name her son Jesus. Both St. John and Jesus were divinely named. The ancients believed a name reflected the true essence of a person. In the Greek text of the New Testament, Jesus’ name is rendered Iesous, but this was not the name His family and friends called Him. Jesus’ Hebrew name was (in old Hebrew) Yah’shua; in Jesus’ time His Aramaic name had evolved into Yehosua.
Question: What is the significance of the name “Yah’shua/Yehosua?” What important person in the Old Testament had this same name? See Dt 31:7-8, 23 and Mt 1:21.
Answer: An angel told Joseph the significance of the child’s name in a dream: She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins (Mt 1:21). It was the name of the hero-conquer of the Promised Land “Moses’ successor, Joshua.
The angel’s statement to Joseph is a word play on Jesus’ Hebrew name. His name literally means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation” or even more literally, “I AM saves” (the Divine Name is defined in Ex 3:14 as “I AM”). Jesus’ Hebrew name is a theophoric name, a name compound that includes the name of a deity as part of the name. In this case the Yah is a prefix for Yahweh: “Yah” is a short form that represents the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, the name God revealed to Moses and the “I AM” of the burning bush in Exodus 3:13-15. The name “I AM saves” or Yahweh saves” signifies the very name of God present in the person of the second person of the Most Holy Trinity made man for the redemption from sin of all of mankind: there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
The name born by both Jesus and Joshua means “Yahweh is salvation.” The Fathers of the Church saw a typological link between Jesus and the Old Testament hero who bore the same name. Biblical typology is defined as: A biblical person, thing, action, or event that foreshadows new truths, new actions, or new events. In the Old Testament, Melchizedech and Jonah are types of Jesus Christ. A likeness must exist between the type and the archetype, but the latter is always greater. Both are independent of each other (Catholic Dictionary, John A. Hardon, S.J.).
The Catechism teaches: The Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefiguration’s of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son (CCC 128). Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself. Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New” (CCC 129, quoting St. Augustine).
Question: In what ways does Joshua prefigure Jesus and serve as a Scriptural “type” of Jesus?
|The Typology of Joshua and Jesus|
“Yahweh is salvation”
“Yahweh is salvation”
|Moses gave Hoshea the name Yahshua/Joshua.||The angel Gabriel told Mary of Nazareth to name God’s Son Yahshua/Jesus.|
|His name defined his mission as Gods anointed.||His name defined His mission as God’s anointed.|
|Joshua’s mission was to lead the children of Israel into the Promise Land of Canaan.||Jesus’ mission was to lead the children of God into the Promised Land of Heaven.|
|Joshua’s mission was to lead the children of Israel into the Promise Land of Canaan.||Jesus’ mission was to lead the children of God into the Promised Land of Heaven.|
|Joshua began his mission by crossing the Jordan River from the east to the west.||Jesus began His mission after His baptism by crossing the Jordan River from the east to the west.|
|Joshua faithfully served God all of his life.||Jesus faithfully served God the Father all of His earthly life and beyond.|
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
Question: How does Jesus’ Hebrew name, Yah’shua, announce both Jesus’ destiny and His mission?
Answer: Since God alone can offer the gift of salvation and the forgiveness of sin, it is God the eternal Son whose mission and destiny is to save humanity, just as His name suggests: “I AM saves”/ “I AM is salvation”.
Luke 1:32-33 “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father, 33and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
The angel Gabriel told Mary her son’s throne will last forever. It is a prophecy that recalls the promise of the 5th kingdom in Daniel 2:44 “the kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever. There are also echoes of God’s covenant promises to King David in 2 Samuel 7:9-16that his throne will endure forever (also see 2 Sam 23:5). St. Luke is intentionally making a link between God’s promise to David of an eternal covenant and the inauguration of that covenant promise in Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus is the promised son of David’s line who will rule forever. He is the one greater than Moses promised in Deuteronomy 18:17-18, and He is God’s anointed who will lead His people across the great “river” of physical death into the true Promised Land of Heaven, as prefigured by Joshua who led the children of Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land of Canaan (Joshua 3:1-17).
|Promises made to David in
2 Samuel 7:9-16
|Promises made to Mary in Luke 1:31-33|
|And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth
[literal translation = I will make your name great] (2 Sam 7:9).
|… and you will name him Jesus. He will be great (Lk 1:32).|
|The LORD reveals to you that he will establish a house for you and when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors [literally = your fathers]… (2 Sam 7:11-12).||The Lord will give him the throne of David his father (Lk 1:32).|
|I shall be a father to him and he a son to me. (2 Sam 7:14).||… and will be called Son of the Most High (Lk 1:32).|
|… I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm
[literally = the throne of your kingdom I shall establish forever] (2 Sam 7:13).
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever (2 Sam 7:16).… he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end (Lk 1:33). M. Hunt © 2000
Luke 1:34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
Question: Why did Zechariah’s question in 1:18 render a rebuke by the angel in 1:20 whereas Mary’s question in 1:34 does not receive a negative response?
Answer: Zechariah’s question expressed unbelief (verse 20) whereas Mary’s question concerns only her state of virginity.
Luke 1:35 And the angel said to her in reply, “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.
The angel uses the verb episkiazein (overshadow) to explain Mary’s Divine conception by the power of God the Holy Spirit. It is the same verb used in the Greek Septuagint translation ofExodus 40:34 when God the Holy Spirit, in the visible form of the Glory Cloud, “overshadowed” the Tabernacle and the glory of Yahweh filled the Dwelling. It is the same word that is used in the Transfiguration of the Christ (Mt 17:5 andLk 9:34) when the voice of God was heard coming from a cloud which cast its shadow over those assembled on the mountain, and it is used in Acts 5:15 when St. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, approached the sick and his shadow was cast over them and they were healed. The shadow of God is the gentlest manifestation of His Divine Presence “how tenderly He overshadowed the Virgin Mary to change her destiny and all of human history.
Question: In Exodus 40:34 God overshadowed the Sanctuary that held the Ark of the Covenant when His presence came to dwell on it (Ex 25:10, 21-22). Is there a connection between the Virgin Mary and the Ark of the Covenant? What were the three items that were placed in the Ark of the Covenant when it resided in the Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem Temple? Compare Mary’s womb with the description of the contents of the Ark of the Covenant from Hebrews 9:4.
|Contents of the Ark of the Covenant according to Hebrews 9:4||Jesus Within Mary’s Womb|
|The Ten Commandments = the word of God (also see Ex 25:21; 40:20)||Jesus: the Living Word of God (Jn 1:1).|
|A pot of the manna, the bread from heaven (also see Ex 16:33-34).||Jesus: the Living Bread come down from heaven (Jn 6:51).|
|Aaron’s staff or branch that came back to life when green shoots budded as a sign of God’s favor (also see Num 17:23, 25).||Jesus: “The Branch” of the House of David that died but came to life again.*|
|M. Hunt © 1998|
*”the Branch,” as was noted earlier, is a prophetic title for the Messiah in the books of the prophets.
The sacred box of the Ark of the Covenant, upon which God’s presence rested, was last seen just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/6 BC when the prophet Jeremiah hid the Ark and the tent of the desert Sanctuary in a cave on Mt. Nebo (see 2 Mac 2:1-8). The prophet Jeremiah foretold that the time would come when the box of the Ark would no longer be important to the covenant people: They will in those days no longer say, “The Ark of the Covenant of the LORD!” They will no longer think of it, or remember it, or miss it, or make another (Jer 3:16b).
Question: But will the faithful remnant of Israel, who will become the New Covenant Church of the people of God, be deprived of a sacred vessel associated with the very presence of God? See CCC 2676 and Rev 11:19-12:1-5; 21:3.br />Answer: No! The Virgin Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant! Her womb is the first “dwelling of God … with men” (Rev 21:3; CCC 2676).
THE VIRGIN MARY IS THE ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT
|God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and then indwelled the Ark. The Ark became the dwelling place of the presence of God. (Ex 40:34-35)||God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and then indwelled Mary. At that time Mary’s womb became the dwelling place of the presence of God. (Lk 1:35)|
|The Ark contained the 10 Commandments (the word of God in stone), a pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that came back to life. (Ex 25:16; Dt 10:2, 5; Heb 9:4)||The womb of the Virgin contained Jesus: the Word of God enfleshed, the living bread from heaven, “the Branch” (Messianic title) who would die but come back to life. (Lk 1:35)|
|The Ark traveled to the hill country of Judah to rest in the house of Obed-edom. (2 Sam 6:1-11)||Mary traveled to the hill country of Judah (Judea) to the home of Elizabeth. (Lk 1:39)|
|Dressed in a priestly ephod, King David approached the Ark and danced and leapt for joy. (2 Sam 6:14)||John the Baptist, son of a priest who would himself become a priest, leapt for joy in Elizabeth’s womb at the approach of Mary. (Lk 1:43)|
|David shouted for joy in the presence of God and the holy Ark. (2 Sam 6:15)||Elizabeth gave a cry of joy in the presence God within Mary. (Lk 1:42)|
|David asked How is it that the Ark of the Lord comes to me? (2 Sam 6:9)||Elizabeth asked, Why is this granted unto me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Lk 1:43)|
|The Ark remained in the house of Obed-edom for 3 months. (2 Sam 6:11)||Mary remained in the house of her cousin Elizabeth for 3 months. (Lk 1:56)|
|The house of Obed-edom was blessed by the presence of the Ark. (2 Sam 6:11)||The word “blessed” is used 3 times concerning Mary at Elizabeth’s house. (in Lk 1:39-45)|
|The Ark returned to its sanctuary and eventually ends up in Jerusalem where the presence and glory of God is revealed in the newly built Temple. (2 Sam 6:12; 1 Kng 8:9-11)||Mary returned home from visiting Elizabeth and eventually comes to Jerusalem, where she presents God the Son in the Temple. (Lk 1:56; 2:21-22)|
|God made Aaron’s rod (which would be kept in the Ark) return to life and budded to prove he was the legitimate High Priest. (Num 17:8)||God would resurrect His Son, who had become enfleshed in Mary’s womb and born to bring salvation to all mankind, to prove He is the eternal High Priest. (Heb 4:14)|
|When the Ark was outside the Holy of Holies [when it was being transported] it was to be covered with a blue veil. (Num 4:4-6)||In Mary’s appearances outside of heaven, visionaries testify that she wears a blue veil.|
|In Revelation 11:19 John sees the Ark of the Covenant in heaven; this is the last verse of chapter 11.||In Revelation 12:1 John sees Mary in heaven. It is the same vision Juan Diego saw of Mary in Mexico in 1531 “the Woman clothed with the sun and standing on the moon.|
|M. Hunt, copyright 2002, revised 2012|
Mary’s unique role in salvation history is first mentioned in Genesis 3:15a where God curses the Serpent and promises that the Redeemer-Messiah who will crush the power of Satan will be born from a woman: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring [seed] and hers [her seed]... This passage is referred to as the first Gospel message, or in Greek as the Protoevangelium. The prophets of God narrowed this promise by identifying Israel as the people destined to bring forth the promised woman. In addition, Mary’s role as the Ark of the New Covenant is foretold in the prophecies of Jeremiah. In chapter three he wrote concerning the sacred gold-covered box of the Ark of the Covenant that will disappear in the Babylonian conquest. When the remnant of Israel returns after the exile, he tells the people a time will come when they no long look for the lost Ark: I shall give you shepherds after my own heart, who will pasture you wisely and discreetly. Then, when you have increased and grown numerous in the country, Yahweh declares, no one will ever again say: The Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh! It will not enter their minds, they will not remember it or miss it, nor will another one be made. When that time comes, Jerusalem will be called: The Throne of Yahweh, and all the nations will converge on her, on Yahweh’s name, on Jerusalem, and will no longer follow their own stubborn and wicked inclinations (Jer 3:15-17 NJB).
In this prophecy “Jerusalem,” as the center of true worship becomes a symbolic name for the universal, new Covenant Church. Then in chapter 31, a chapter in which Jeremiah prophesies the promise of a New Covenant (31:31) he wrote: The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth: the woman must encompass the man …(Jer 31:22b; this is the literal Hebrew translation from Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning promise of the New Covenant; see Jer 31:22-34). ). The NAB ends this sentence with the words “with devotion” but those words are not found in either the Hebrew or Greek text. This passage only makes sense if the creation of the first man and woman, in which the virgin Eve was encompassed and born from the body of the man Adam when God formed her from Adam’s rib (Gen 2:21-22) is being contrasted with Jesus’ being encompassed within and formed from the body of the Virgin Mary. Normally a man child being born from the body of a woman is not “something new,” but it is “something new” when that man child is the Son of God enfleshed and Mary is His mother.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms Mary’s role as the “daughter of Zion and the Ark of the New Covenant: … Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is the dwelling of God…with men” (CCC 2676).
Question: What was the Holy Spirit’s role in preparing Mary for the Incarnation of the Messiah, and what was the result?
- The Holy Spirit prepared Mary in advance for the Incarnation of the Son by infusing her with His grace at the moment of her conception: By the Holy Spirit’s power and her faith, her virginity became uniquely fruitful (CCC # 723).
- In preparing Mary, the Holy Spirit was fulfilling God the Father’s promise for the salvation of humanity: I shall put enmity between you and the woman …. (Gen 3:15).
- In Mary the Holy Spirit manifested God the Son enfleshed who then became the Son of God within the womb of a human mother who is both fruitful mother and ever virgin “Mary became the “burning bush” of a definitive Theophany. Filled with the Holy Spirit she made the Word visible in the humility of His flesh through her DNA.
The result was twofold:
- Through the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit began to fulfill God’s plan to bring humanity into communion with Christ.
- The Holy Spirit made Mary the Ark of the New Covenant “bearing the presence of God in her womb. The “something new” promised by Jeremiah was a reversal of the old creation when the first virgin (Eve) came from the body of the first man (Adam). In the beginning of the new creation, the second Adam (Jesus) came from the body of the second Eve (the Virgin Mary). What made this event “new” is that this time the woman who held a man-child in her womb was a virgin, and the man-child was God enfleshed.
Luke 1:38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid [servant/slave] of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Mary humbly identified herself as God’s female slave/servant. The Greek word is doule, the feminine of doulos which means “male slave/servant.” In the ancient world, nearly all servants were slaves. Then Mary completely submitted herself to the Lord and His sovereignty over her life with her words: “May it be done to me according to your word.”
At the moment of Mary’s free will response, Jesus was conceived by the power of God the Holy Spirit: From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived “by the Holy Spirit without human seed.” The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own … (CCC 496).
The Incarnation took place as God the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” (episkiazein) and enveloped the Virgin Mary. This is the same Spirit of God who moved over the face of the water of Creation, bringing life (Gen 1:2-31). Now He came bringing life to the Virgin’s womb “the fruit her womb was the work of God the Holy Spirit (CCC# 697). This worthy Virgin, conceived without the stain of sin, became the new Tabernacle of God “the Ark of the New Covenant (see Rev 11:19-12:1; CCC 2676). This is the mystery Catholics reflect upon every time they pray the Angelus.
Question: Mary’s fiat “her unequivocal, free will “yes” to the will of God for her life ” stands in sharp contrast to the free will response of what other virgin faced with a decision that not only affected her life but the course of human history? See Gen chapter 3.
Answer: The contrast to the Virgin Mary in her obedience is the virgin Eve in her decision to rebel against God and His will for her life her free will decision to decide for herself what was good and what was evil in eating of the forbidden fruit.
The Fathers of the Church saw the Virgin Mary as the “new Eve” and Mary’s “yes” as the undoing the disobedience brought about by the virgin Eve: Thus, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.22.4).
And the Church affirms her role as the “new Eve” from the time of the promise of Mary’s role in salvation history prophesied in Genesis 3:15 (known as the Protoevangelium, “first good-news”/gospel): … Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the “new Eve…” (CCC 411, also see CCC 489, 726, 2618 and 2853).
After the angel’s announcement of Jesus’ future birth, with significant repeated elements from the announcement of St. John’s future birth, Luke now moves to the third episode in his infancy narrative. The telling of the visitation of Mary to her kinswoman Elizabeth brings together elements from the first two parts to link the two birth announcements more closely. This part of the narrative is divided into four parts:
- The introduction (verse 39-41)
- Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary (verses 42-45)
- Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s blessing (46-55)
- The conclusion (verse 56)
Luke 1:39-56 ~ The Visitation: Mary journeys from Nazareth to the house of Zechariah
39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
After the angel’s visit, Mary immediately set out, probably joining a caravan traveling to Jerusalem, to make the 7-8 day journey from Nazareth in the Galilee to the hill country of Judea and the town of her kinswoman Elizabeth. According to a Christian tradition that predates the Crusades, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in the Judean town of Ein Kerem, about four miles west of Jerusalem (Shrines of the Holy Land, pages 125-29). After the return from the Babylonian exile, the Book of Nehemiah records that the chief priests took up residence in or near Jerusalem (Neh 11:3).
You will recall that Elizabeth was in seclusion for the first five months of her pregnancy as the ancients counted without the concept of a zero place-value (Lk 1:24). It is now the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy as they ancients counted (Lk 1:36) when Mary traveled to visit her. Mary’s desire to visit her kinswoman is probably prompted by the Holy Spirit as well as by her need to share her experience with someone who will understand.
Luke 1:41-4241When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
When Mary entered her house and Elizabeth first heard Mary’s voice (Lk 1:40), the fetus of St. John the Baptist, recognizing the presence of his Lord, leapt for joy within his mother’s womb (Lk 1:41, 44). The unborn St. John’s response to Mary and the Christ within her womb recalls God’s words to Jeremiah: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you (Jer 1:5). Think of the horror of abortion that is taking place daily as children, personally known by God from the womb and given as His holy gift, are violently murdered before (and in some cases after) birth.
Question: In Elizabeth’s Holy Spirit inspired greeting to her kinswoman, she gives what three blessings in verses 42-45?
- She blesses Mary
- She blesses Jesus
- She blesses the faith God has given Mary
Elizabeth’s third blessing for Mary: Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled, is given in contrast to Zechariah’s unbelief. Mary is the first Christian. Her belief does not waver during the years of Jesus ministry or during His Passion. She will be faithfully praying together with those believed and waited for the coming of the Paraclete in the Upper Room after Jesus’ Ascension (Acts 1:13-14).
Luke 1:43And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Bible scholars both ancient and modern have seen the similarity of Elizabeth’s rhetorical question in Luke 1:43 and King David’s rhetorical question in 2 Samuel 6:9 when he said: How can the Ark of the Lord come to me? speaking of the Ark of the Covenant. They have seen Elizabeth’s question as an intentional comparison between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, the dwelling place of the Lord God (see the chart on Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant). A deliberate comparison seems to be confirmed by verse 56 where Mary is said to stay in Elizabeth’s house in the Judean hill country three months “just as the Ark stayed in the Judean hill country housed of Obed-edom for three months in 2 Samuel 6:11.
Question: When Elizabeth refers to “my Lord” in verse 43 and to “the Lord” in verse 45, to whom is she referring and what is the implication of verse 43?
Answer: She is referring to Jesus in verse 43 and God in verse 45. She is referring to the Divinity of Jesus and therefore to Mary as “the mother of God.”
It is by the strength of Elizabeth’s statement, prompted by the Holy Spirit, that the Council of Ephesus declared Mary not only the “Mother of Jesus” but also the “Mother of God” in 431 AD. CCC 495: Called in the Gospels “the mother of Jesus,” Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord.” In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos). Also see CCC 466, 495 and 509.
From what Elizabeth says in verse 45, she not only knows what the angel Gabriel told her husband but also what Gabriel told Mary. This knowledge was imparted to her by the Holy Spirit in the moment of her joy but other information must also have been imparted to her by her husband (see 1:60 where she knows the name of the child before Zechariah’s speech has returned).
For other references to the expression “fruit of your womb” in Scripture see Deuteronomy 7:13 where God promised to bless Israel for covenant obedience: He will love and bless and multiply you; he will bless the fruit of your womb and the produce of your soil…. Also see Psalms 127:3 where it is written: Children too are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb, a reward. To reject the birth of a child is to reject a gift from God.
Luke 1:47-55 ~ The Canticle of Mary (the Magnificat)
46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior. 48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. 49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. 51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. 52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. 53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s exclamation of praise for Mary’s belief and the honor God has shown her as “the mother of the Lord,” is a hymn of praise that is known as the Magnificat. Some scholars have concluded that Mary’s Magnificat like the Benedictus of Zechariah (Lk 1:68-79) was an early Aramaic Jewish-Christian hymn that predates Luke’s Gospel. Other scholars disagree, citing the numerous references to the Greek Septuagint Old Testament passages within the two chants (Fr. Raymond Brown, The Birth of Jesus, pages 350-55 and the opposing view from Fr. Raymond Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke, page 361). One test for such a theory is how easily the Greek translates into Hebrew or Aramaic.(3)
Question: Mary’s hymn of praise can be divided into what three parts?
- Her praise for what God has done for her personally (verses 46b-49).
- Her praise for God’s mercy to the poor and disadvantaged (verses 50-53).
- Her praise for God’s faithfulness to Abraham’s descendants, the nation of Israel (verses 54-55).
Luke 1:46-47 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
Mary begins by calling God her personal savior. The word “Lord,” Kyrois in Greek, is understood to be Yahweh who is the source of Mary’s blessing and her salvation. The expression “rejoices God my Savior” is an echo of Hannah’s hymn of praise to God in 1 Samuel 2:1.
In verse 48, Mary says: For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The NJB has “he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant” which is an echo of Habakkuk 3:18. Her humble station is the first reason for Mary’s praise. She declares that because of God’s Divine plan for her life and her willingness to submit to that plan all generations will pronounce a beatitude over her; the verb makariousin, in the future tense, reflects the adjective makaria that Elizabeth uses in verse 45 (Fitzmyer, page 367).
Question: Mary utters the prophecy of future generations and her relationship to them prompted by the Holy Spirit. Does this prophecy require any action on the part of Christians?
Answer: Yes. It is our obligation to honor Mary just as her Son honored her according to the Law and because of His love for her.
To honor one’s parents is the only one of the Ten Commandments that carries a promise (see Ex 20:12).When Jesus gave Mary into the care of the beloved disciple as his mother at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:26-27), she became the mother of every disciple of Christ Jesus (also see Rev 12:17).
Luke 1:49-50 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name 50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
Verse 49 is the second reason for Mary’s praise. She uses the same title for God that is found in the “daughter of Zion” passage in Zephaniah 3:17 (LXX) and Psalms 89:9 (LXX). That God “has done great things” for her is an echo of Deuteronomy 10:21 in which God promises the children of Israel He will do “great things” ” great saving acts for them if they remain loyal and obedient. Mary sees this promise fulfilled personally for her in what God has done in making her the mother of the Redeemer-Messiah “a “great thing” that will not only bring about her salvation but the salvation of her people (also see Dt 11:7 and Judg 2:7).
Question: In verses 49-50 Mary names what three attributes of God?
Answer: His might, holiness and mercy.
… and holy is his name 50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
“Holy is his name” or “His name is holy” refers to God’s Divine Name YHWH and is an echo of Psalms 119:9 while “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him” is an echo of Psalms 103:17. A name was believed to express the total essence of a person or in this case, of God as the great “I AM” and about which God told Moses “This is my name forever; this is my title for all generations” (see Ex 3:15).
When Mary speaks of fear of the Lord in verse 50, something God urges repeatedly in Scripture (i.e., Ex 18:21; Lev 25:17, 36, 43; Dt 6:13, 24; 8:6; 10:12, 20; repeated almost verbatim from Ps 103:17), she is not speaking of servile fear but reverence toward God in recognizing His sovereignty and fear of offending God “the positive aspects of keeping on the path to righteousness. Mary’s hymn that began in praise for what God has done for her personally has now expanded to what God has done for her people as a whole.
Luke 1:50-53 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. 52 He has thrown down the rulers [princes] from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. 53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
Expressions similar to “shown the might with his arm” are often found in Scripture (see for example Ex 6:6;Dt 4:34; Ps 89:11; Is 40:10; 51:5, 9; 53:1). God is spirit and this expression is not meant to suggest God has arms like human beings. It is an anthropomorphism meant to convey the exercise of God’s great power and strength. Verse 52 is an echo of Job 5:11 and 12:19.
The wealthy who are the “arrogant of mind and heart” are the enemies of the poor and humble and therefore the enemies of God (see Is 2:12, 17; 4:15; 13:11; Wis 3:10-11; etc.). Mary is speaking of the promise of God’s ultimate justice for those who have suffered and for those who have caused the suffering. She includes a quote from Psalms 107:9: For he satisfied the thirsty, filled the hungry with good things. In His Divine justice, God will judge men and women according to their works (Mt 25:31-46; Lk 6:20-25), and the rich who abused the use of their material gifts will experience a reversal of fortune in that they will be “sent away empty.”
Luke 1:54-55 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants [seed] forever.”
Mary’s concluding statement contains echoes of the promises of Isaiah 41:8-9 from the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament that was the common translation used in Mary’s time,(4) as well as Psalms 98:3 and Micah 7:20;
- You, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen … You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off (Is 41:8-9).
- He has remembered faithful love [hesed = merciful covenant love] toward the house of Israel … (Ps 98:3).
- You will show faithfulness to Jacob and grace to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from days of old (Mic 7:20).
Mary understands that her condition in bearing the Redeemer-Messiah who is the heir of King David and of the promises of the Davidic covenant is a fulfillment of God’s promise not to abandon His covenant people. Her Son will be a fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham. One of those promises was of a blessing that is to extend world-wide (Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). That blessing will be fulfilled in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:8).
Mary’s great humility and faith is illuminated in her beautiful hymn of praise “this is, of course, the way God created her. In the Catechism, citation 722, the Church teaches: TheHoly Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells, bodily, should herself be “full of grace.” She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the “Daughter of Zion”: “Rejoice.” It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son.
Luke 1:56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
Question: According to Scripture, Elizabeth was six month with child when Mary arrived (1:24, 26), and Mary remained with Elizabeth three months. Does this suggest that Mary stayed until Elizabeth’s son was born? Hint: remember the ancients counted without the concept of a zero place-value, this is why Scripture records Jesus rested in the tomb three days from Friday to Sunday instead of two days. See Wis 7:1-2
Answer: No, she did not. As the ancients counted, with the first month of pregnancy counting as month #1, a woman carried a child according to ancient reckoning for ten months. Therefore, according to the way we count, Elizabeth was five months pregnant when the angel visited Mary and she was eight months pregnant when Mary left. Mary left the month before St. John’s birth.
Mary made the return journey to Nazareth when she was two months pregnant as we count months (three as the ancients counted). She had important issues to settle in Nazareth before her pregnancy began to show and before travel became too dangerous for her. She trusted in God to protect her and to bring His Divine plan for man’s salvation through the birth of her Son to completion.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Read the hymn of thanksgiving of Samuel’s mother Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 in which she extols God’s greatness and compare Hannah’s hymn to Mary’s canticle of praise.
Question: How are their hymns of praise alike and how are they different? How are the conditions of the two women alike?
Possible Answer: Both Hannah and Mary are women God has chosen to be mothers of sons who will be instruments in God plan to intervene in Israel’s history and in the history of mankind. Mary, like Samuel’s mother, contrasts her humble station with God’s greatness, she speaks of God’s mercy to the humble, and she speaks of His covenant promises to the just that will bring salvation to Israel. But Mary begins her canticle by claiming God as her personal Savior (verse 46) and in Mary’s conclusion she recognizes that the salvation that is to come through the birth, life and mission of her son is related to the covenant God made with Abraham (verses 54-55).
Question: Since Mary was conceived in the normal human way but was preserved from the stain of the human condition of original sin in her immaculate conception, did she still need a Savior like all human beings?
Answer: Yes, like all member of the human family, Mary needed a Savior. However, God in His mercy saved Mary in advance through her eternal Son so that she could be the immaculate vessel that could bear a sinless and holy God.
Question: Do Catholics worship Mary?
Answer: Absolutely not! Worship belongs to God alone. We give Mary the very special honor she deserves as the Mother of God, and we fulfill her prophecy in the Magnificat, prompted by the Holy Spirit, that “all generations” should “call her blessed” (Lk 1:48). We also acknowledge her role as the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Davidic King who rules forever. The queen mother of the Davadic kings had the role as the people’s advocate; she was given a seat at the right side of her kingly son and presented the people’s petitions (see 1 Kng 2:19). It is in this role that Mary is our Advocate to her Son, and we can rightly petition her with our prayers. However, only God can fulfill those petitions. We also acknowledge Mary as the Mother of the Church and therefore the adopted Mother of every disciple of Christ, as it is written in Revelation 12:17.
1. It is an ancient tradition of Eastern Rite Christians that the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Messiah to Mary at the village well in Nazareth (see Protoevangelium of St. James 9:1; Pseudo-Matthew 9:1). This tradition has an interesting connection to the Old Testament in which a bride is always courted at a well:
- Rebekah was courted by the unnamed servant sent by Abraham to find a bride for Isaac at a well (Gen 24:1-67)
- Jacob met Rachel, his future bride, at a well (Gen 29:1-18)
- The Midianite maiden Zipporah was rescued at a well by Moses and was later married to him (Ex 2:16-22).
There is also a New Testament connection where Jesus “courts” the Samaritan woman at a well, calling her to salvation through Jesus, the Divine Bridegroom (Jn chapter 4).
3. Sometimes words do not translate easily into other languages when there is no comparable word. For example, the Hebrew word for Messiah is entirely absent in the Greek language. Therefore, the writers of the Greek translation of the Old Testament and the New Testament had to take a Greek word and give it a new meaning. Since “messiah” means “Anointed One” the Greek word “christos”, meaning “one smeared with oil” became the acceptable replacement word.
4. In Fr. Fitzmyer’s commentary, he also notes that he finds Mary’s hymn of praise to be full of allusions to Old Testament passages, mostly from the Septuagint (see Fr. Fitzmyer chart on page 356 of The Gospel According to Luke, Anchor Bible Commentary). I have listed those passages that I thought best echoed Mary’s words.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson (*indicates that Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the citation):
|Lk 1:26-38||497*, 706*, 723*, 2571*||Gen 3:15||70*, 410*, 489*|
|Lk 1:26-27||488||Is 7:14||497|
|Lk 1:26||332*||Dan 7:13-14||440*, 664|
|Lk 1:28-37||494*||Zeph 3:14-17||722*, 2676*|
|Lk 1:28||490, 491||Heb 9:3-5||2058, 2578, 2594, 2130|
|Lk 1:31||430*, 2812*||Jn 19:26-27||726*, 495, 501*, 964*, 2605,2618*, 2677*, 2679*|
|Lk 1:34||484, 497*, 505|
|Lk 1:35||437, 484, 486*, 697|
|Lk 1:37||148, 269*, 273, 276|
|Lk 1:38||64*, 148, 510, 2617*, 2677, 2827*, 2856*|
|Lk 1:41||523*, 717, 2676|
|Lk 1:43||448*, 495, 2677|
|Lk 1:45||148, 2676|
|1:46-55||722, 2619*, 2675*|
|1:48||148*, 971, 2676*|
|1:49||273, 2599*, 2807*|