SET 1 & 2: Season of Annunciation
After Mary’s discussion with Angel Gabriel, she expressed her willingness to accept any hardship as part of her vocation as the mother of the Son of God. It was a free-will consent though a hard one to decide. Mary had no inkling of the hardships and the glory to follow. Yet, she gave her consent trusting the Lord, without waiting to consult Joseph, her friends, or relatives. Mary committed fully to her call. She undertook the sufferings with patience and did her glorious task in humility, starting with her service for Elizabeth.
Announcement of the Birth of Jesus
(Lk 1:26) In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent (27) to a young virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. (28) The angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” (29) Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean.
(30) But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has favoured you. (31) You shall conceive and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus. (32) He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever 33 and his reign shall have no end.”
(34) Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” (35) And the angel said to her, “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 holy and shall be called Son of God.” (36) Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child, and she is now in her sixth month. (37) With God nothing is impossible.”
(38) Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.
(26) In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent…
In the sixth month
Six months have passed since Angel Gabriel announced John the Baptist’s birth to Zechariah. That announcement opened a new era for the new covenant that Jesus made with humanity for his Father. So, the calculation of time starts from there.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God.
The Bible mentions three angels by name:
1. Michael – in Hebrew means “Who is like God.” Michael presides over the prayers and offerings of the faithful.
2. Raphael – means “The Medicine of God.” Raphael presides over the cure of human bodies. This angel restored sight to Tobit when he became blind (Tob 11:7-15).
3. Gabriel – means “The Power of God.” Gabriel presides over the conflicts and wars of the faithful, as in Daniel chapter 12. This angel is also a messenger of God. God sent Angel Gabriel to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, who would wage war against Lucifer (Gen 3:15).
Angel Gabriel appears four times in the Bible communicating God’s message to His faithful servants: to Prophet Daniel (Ch. 10), to John the Baptist’s father Zechariah (Lk 1:5-20), to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Lk 1:26-38), and Evangelist John in Patmos. (Rev 1:1-2). Though not specified in the Holy Bible, according to the Jewish tradition, Gabriel is one of the seven archangels.
To a town of Galilee called Nazareth
Nazareth was a village in Galilee where people typically knew one another. Joseph, from Bethlehem, moved to Nazareth for economic prospects. He was a carpenter and there was no scope in Bethlehem. Mary’s father Joachim was from Nazareth, and her mother Anne was from Bethlehem.
According to non-Biblical books, Mary’s parents Joachim and Anne were childless. God gave them an extraordinary child in their old age, as it happened to Abraham’s wife Sarah. Joachim and Anne had promised to God that they would entrust their child to the Temple for the Lord’s service. So they brought Mary when she was three years old, to the Temple and offered her as they had promised before her birth. While Mary grew up in the Temple, her aged parents died. A girl could not continue in the Temple once she attained puberty. So, between the age of 12 and 15, the priests betrothed her to Joseph, whom God had selected to marry her. So, Joseph took Mary from Jerusalem to Nazareth.
Nazareth in Hebrew means branch. Jesus from Nazareth was the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1. “From the stump of Jesse a shoot will come forth; from his roots, a branch will grow and bear fruit.” Nazareth was such an insignificant village that when Philip introduced Jesus “from Nazareth” to Nathaniel, he asked: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46).
(27) To a young virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
To a young virgin
According to the apocryphal book, The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, the blessed mother had made a vow of virginity at the Temple of Jerusalem while living there from the age of three. Hence, she asked Angel Gabriel, how she, a lifelong virgin, could give birth to a child. This was also the fulfilment of another prophecy: “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). Thus, the virgin birth became a prophetic sign of the Messiah’s arrival. The Catholic Church and some other churches teach the perpetual virginity of Mary.
Who was engaged to a man named Joseph
The apocryphal writings present the story of Joseph’s marriage. These writings are non-canonical books. So, they may be true or myth. However, they help us connect the gaps in the Biblical narratives. According to the Apocrypha, when Joseph was 40 years old, he married Salome (Melcha or Escha). They lived together for 49 years and had four sons and two daughters. The youngest was James the Less, also known as “the Lord’s brother.” This story helps us to understand the brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in the gospels (Mk 6:3; Mt 13:55-56).
“A year after his wife’s death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Judah a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age. Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice God had made of Joseph, and two years later the Annunciation took place.” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08504a.htm). Joseph’s role, though married to Mary, was to protect her life and her virginity. However, God called him also as the Redeemer’s foster father.
Joseph, of the family of David
Though Luke gives the genealogy of Mary tracing back to King David, where he states that Jesus’ legal father was also from the lineage of David as a fulfilment of the Davidic Covenant. “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.” (2 Sam 7:12-14). Though God met this promise in David’s son Solomon, it was only partial. Its fulfilment came only in Jesus. Because of this, Jesus has another title, the Son of David.
The virgin’s name was Mary.
Miriam is the Hebrew word for Mary. Miriam in the Old Testament was the sister of Moses. Just as Moses is a prototype of Jesus, Miriam is a prototype of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Miriam (Mar Yam) in Hebrew means myrrh, or bitterness of the sea. When Miriam was born, the Israelites had the bitter destiny to throw their children into the River Nile because of Pharaoh’s order. However, when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Mariam was also known as Mara Yam meaning “Mistress of the Sea.” Miriam was the leader of women when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea while God drowned Pharaoh and his soldiers. According to Saint Ambrose, Mary of the New Testament leads us through the sea of the world to the new Promised Land, heaven.
(28) The angel came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”
Hail full of grace
Hail means “Ave” the reversal of the Latin word Eva for Eve. Mary reversed the situation of humanity by her obedience to God. Eve, the mother of all, caused death by her disobedience. Mary, the spiritual mother of all the faithful, brought life to the world. So according to Serarius, “Ave” means life.
God created Adam and Eve sinless. Similarly, God allowed the New Adam, Jesus and the New Eve, Mary to be ‘immaculately’ conceived, so that Original Sin did not touch them. Only a non-contaminated container can hold a sterile medicine for treatment. Hence God kept Mary sinless from the moment of her conception so that she could become the new ark of God’s divine presence in her womb. For that reason, the angel greeted Mary, “full of grace.”
The Lord is with you.
Angel Gabriel clarified why Mary was full of grace. God specially chose Mary in His eternal plan of salvation. God the Father has favoured her. The Son of God would take flesh in her womb. The Holy Spirit would come upon her, and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. So, the angel clarified how the Lord was with Mary uniquely.
(29) Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean.
The unexpected visit of the angel shocked Mary. A surprising call to a responsible position can disturb any person. Mary might have been seeking the grace of God. The angel affirmed that she was full of grace and that the Lord was with her. She tried to believe it herself.
(30) But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has favored you.”
The angel’s appearance caused fear in Mary as it happened to Zechariah (Lk 1:12) and the shepherds (Lk 2:10). However, the angel comforted and assured her that God had found favour with her and selected her as the mother of His Son. The Old Testament presents Noah, Moses, and David as people who found “favour with God.” God included Mary in that category of exceptional people.
(31) You shall conceive and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus.
The late-born children had been special to God. Sarah’s son Isaac (Gen 11:30; 21:1-2), Rebekah’s son Jacob (Gen 25:21), Rachel’s son Joseph (Gen 29:31; 30:22), Samson whose mother’s name is unknown (Judg 13:1-3), Hannah’s son Samuel (1 Sam 1:5-6, 20) are examples of late-born sons, who had special roles in the salvation history. Mary, who had a unique role in God’s plan, was a late-born daughter of Joachim and Anne.
Jesus was virginally conceived in Mary’s womb. Isaiah had prophesied, “the LORD himself shall give you a sign: The virgin is with child and will bear a son and will name him Emmanuel.” (Isa 7:14). Mary was always a virgin mother, though contrary to the natural law.
You shall call him Jesus.
Jesus is Joshua in Hebrew, and Joshua means “Yahweh is salvation.” Joshua succeeded Moses and led the Israelites to Canaan, the Promised Land. He was only a representative of God in winning the war against Canaanites, who were larger and stronger than the Israelites. Jesus is the new Joshua who waged war against Satan, became victorious, and led his people to the new Promised Land, heaven. He is also Emmanuel, as Isaiah had prophesied, God who dwelt among us in the flesh.
(32) “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever (33) and his reign shall have no end.”
The Angel Gabriel prophesied to Mary certain things about her son-to-be:
(34) Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I am a virgin?”
Mary was wondering how she could give birth to a child. Though betrothed to Joseph, she had taken a vow of virginity, and its breaking was against God (Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine). Her concern was losing her virginity to become the mother of the Saviour. However, she is the virgin-mother of the Son of God. Her doubt makes the angel reveal more about the mode of incarnation.
(35) And the angel said to her, “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 holy and shall be called Son of God.”
Like the first parents, Jesus originated not by sexual union, but from God. The conception happened through a divine intervention, which was an exception to the natural law. All three persons of the Most Holy Trinity were involved in the Mystery of Incarnation. The angel clarified that the second person of the Most Holy Trinity was now becoming incarnate. For this, the Holy Spirit would descend on Mary and the power of God the Father would overshadow her like the Shakina cloud overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant. In the New Testament, Mary became the new ark that carried the Word of God.
(36) Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child, and she is now in her sixth month.
Elizabeth came from the lineage of Aaron belonging to the tribe of Levi. Mary was from the family of David, belonging to the tribe of Judah. So, they must be relatives from the maternal side. The tribes of Israel did not intermarry. However, there were marriages between the tribes of Levi and Judah, the priestly and the royal tribes.
Angel Gabriel gave Elizabeth’s unusual pregnancy as a proof for Mary to believe in her virgin motherhood. It was also a hint to assist Elizabeth during her old-age pregnancy. Mary believed the angel’s words and went to serve Elizabeth. Her visit helped fulfil the prophecy of the angel to Zechariah that John “will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (Lk 1:15). That happened when Mary visited Elizabeth.
(37) “With God nothing is impossible.”
God is the creator and master of the universe. So, He is above natural law. The miraculous interventions of God all prove that He can do anything He wants.
(38) Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.
Mary was glad that she could be the mother of the Son of God without losing her virginity. God sought the consent of Mary like a father asking the consent of his daughter for her marriage. Marian scholars teach that Mary conceived at the exact moment she gave her ‘fiat’ (yes / consent) to the angel.