THE ADVENT OF THE MESSIAH
PART III
THE ANNUNCIATION

It was fitting then, that just as death entered the world through the pride of our first parents, the entry of Life should be manifested by the humility of Mary.
St. Bede, The Gospel of Luke

Click here for a picture of the Grotto of the Holy Family: In the 4th -5th centuries, Christian pilgrims carved Mary's name in Greek on the column.

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All Biblical passages are from the New American Bible translation unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible) or LXX (Septuagint Greek Old Testament translation).  LORD or GOD in all capital letters in the NAB refer to the divine Name, YHWH (Yahweh).

Luke 1:26-38 ~ 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! 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.

26 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 was the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy (as the ancients counted) when the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin named Mary.  Notice how St. Luke's Gospel links the priestly family of St. John the Baptist to the family of Mary of Nazareth.  As we count with the concept of a zero-place value, it is the fifth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy.
Question: How are the families related?  See Luke 1:5, 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 (Exodus 28:1; Luke 1:5).  Therefore, as well as being a descendant of King David (Luke 1:32), Mary also came from a priestly bloodline.

Question: Compare the birth narrative of John in Luke 1:1-25, 57-80 to the birth narrative of Jesus in Luke 1:26-56.  How many similarities do you see between the birth narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospel of St. Luke?
Answer:

The Announcement of John's Birth

The Announcement of Jesus' birth

The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to announce a miraculous birth (Lk 1:11) The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce a miraculous birth (Lk 1:26-27).
Gabriel told Zechariah: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard" (Lk 1:13). Gabriel told Mary: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God" (Lk 1:30).
Gabriel announced the name of the child: "... and you shall name him John" (Lk 1:13). Gabriel announced the name of the child: "... and you shall name him Jesus" (Lk 1:31).
Gabriel announced the mission of the child: "He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God... to prepare a people fit for the Lord" (Lk 1:15b-17). Gabriel announced the mission of the child:
"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" (Lk 1:32-33).
Zechariah expressed disbelief and was rebuked: Then Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this?  For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years."  And the angel said to him in reply, "... But now you will be speechless and unable to talk ... because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time" (Lk 1:18-20). Mary expressed concern and was assured: 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. (Lk 1:34-35).
As prophesized, John was born: When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son (Lk 1:57). As prophesized, Jesus was born: ... the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her first-born son (Lk 2:6).
John was circumcised and named on the 8th day: When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child ... "He will be called John" (Lk 1:59-60).  It was the name announced by the angel: "... you shall name him John" (Lk 1:13). Jesus was circumcised and named on the 8th day: When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception (Lk 2:21).
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Zechariah spoke praise and prophecy in the Benedictus (Lk 1:67-79). Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Mary spoke praise and prophecy in the Magnificat (Lk 1:47-55).
John's birth story concluded with the assurance that God's hand was upon this child: ...the child grew up and became strong in spirit (Lk 1:80). Jesus' birth story concluded with the assurance that God's hand was upon this child: The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him (Lk 2:40).
M. Hunt © 2000

27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 
St. Luke makes a clear statement of Mary's virginity, using the Greek word parthenos, "virgin," twice in this passage.  It is the same Greek word for "virgin" that is used in the prophecy of the Old Testament Greek translation of Isaiah 7:14 when Isaiah gave a prophecy of the Davidic messiah, saying "Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." Immanuel (Emmanuel) it is a name which means "God with us."  It is a verse St. Matthew quotes as a fulfilled in the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:23).

Mary is "betrothed" to a man named Joseph.  A betrothal was the first stage of an arranged marriage and lasted a 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 Malachi 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 (Genesis 29:27; Judges 14:18; Tobit 8:20, 27).  The betrothal gave the groom legal rights over the girl and the contract could only be broken by him through a rite of divorce.(1)   Mary and Josephus were in the first stage of the marriage arrangements at the time of the Annunciation.

Question: What was significant about the Hebrew name of Mary's betrothed?  In Hebrew his name is Yosep, which means "let him add" (increase).  See Genesis 30:22-24; 37:5-11; 40:5-23; 41:14-32; Matthew 1:19-21; 2:13, 19-20.
Answer: He was probably named for the beloved son of Jacob/Israel and his wife Rachel.

Question: How were the Old Testament Joseph and the New Testament Joseph alike?  See Genesis 37:5-9; Matthew 1:19-21; 2:13, 19-20.
Answer:  They were alike in that they were both descendants of Jacob/Israel, and they both received prophetic messages associated with dreams.

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 in Matthew 1:20, 24; 2:13, 19; Luke 1:11-38; Acts 5:19; Revelation 1:1), and human messengers (for example see Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27; 2 Corinthians 12:7).  Once again the angel Gabriel was the messenger, having been the same heavenly messenger to tell the priest Zechariah about the future birth of St. John the Baptist (Lk 1:11-20).

The Greek word archangelos means "chief messenger," and is usually translated as "archangel."  The Church identifies Gabriel as one of the seven Archangels.

Question:  Where is the word "archangel" found is Scripture?  What Bible passage supports the Church's identification of Gabriel as an Archangel?  In addition to Gabriel, how many spiritual messengers are named in the Bible?  See Tobit 12:15; Daniel 10:13; Luke 1:11, 19; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Jude verse 9; Revelation 8:2-4.
Answer: The word archangelos is only found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude verse 9.

There are only three angels (spiritual messengers) who are named in the Bible:

  1. Gabriel (Hebrew = "God is my warrior"): Daniel 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26.
  2. Michael (Hebrew = "who is like God?" The only angel identified by name as an archangelos in Scripture): Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude verse 9 (named as the Archangel Michael); Revelation 12:7.
  3. Raphael: (Hebrew = "God heals"): Tobit 12:15.

Gabriel and Raphael are also believed to be archangelos.  Gabriel is not called an archangelos in the Bible, but he is one of the seven Archangels (together with Michael and Raphael) identified in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, 20:1-7; 71:3. (2)  His position on the right side of the Altar of Incense (Luke 1:11) as well as his declaration: I am Gabriel who stand in God's presence (Luke 1:19) indicates that he is one of the seven "chief angels" who are privileged to stand to the right of the heavenly Incense Altar in the heavenly Sanctuary before the throne of God; see Revelation 8:2-4 and the prayer to St. Michael in the liturgy of the Tridentine Solemn High Mass of the Latin Rite which mentions St. Michael standing to the right in the heavenly Sanctuary. (3)  One of the archangelos will have the honor of announcing the Parousia (the Second "Coming") of the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; CCC# 671-674; 1038; 1040).

Question: How many months after Gabriel's announcement to Zechariah does the same angel appear to a Jewish girl named Miriam (Mary)?  Where does Mary live?  See Luke 1:36-37.  Remember the difference in how the ancients counted as opposed to modern counting of days, hours, months, etc.
Answer: Six months later the Angel Gabriel announced the Incarnation of the Messiah to a Jewish girl named Miriam (Mary) in the Galilean village of Nazareth.  It was five months as we count today.

Mary's Hebrew name is "Miriam."  The etymology of the Hebrew name "Miriam" is disputed, but there are scholars who believe it is related to the Egyptian word mrjt, meaning "beloved" (Fr. McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, page 580).  It was the name of Moses' older sister, who was born in Egypt.  It was Moses' sister, Miriam, who watched over and protected her baby brother as he floated down the Nile and into the arms of an Egyptian princess in Exodus 2:1-10. Miriam was recognized as Israel's first cantor and first prophetess.  At the time of the Incarnation, Miriam, the sister of Moses, was one of the most important women in the history of Israel (Exodus 2:4-9; 15:20-21; Numbers 12:1-10; 20:1).

Question: How can Miriam's relationship with Moses be compared to Mary's relationship with Jesus?
Answer: Miriam loved and supported God's prophet from the time of his birth.  She supported him in his ministry and shared in his sufferings.  Miriam sister of Moses and Aaron had a mission that was similar to Miriam/Mary of Nazareth in her support of God's supreme prophet.  Mary would love and support Jesus from His birth to His Cross.  As prophesized by Simeon in Luke 2:34, Mary suffered with her son.

Question: Consult a map of the Holy Land in the New Testament era.  What do you notice about the village of Nazareth and the region of the Galilee?  What role did the Galilee play in Old Testament history?  See Joshua 19:10-32; and 2 Kings 15:29; Isaiah 8:32; 9:1-6/7; and Matthew 4:13-16.
Answer: The Galilee is the region in the north of Israel which surrounds a large lake known in the 1st century as the Sea of Galilee or by the Roman name, the Sea of Tiberias.  Nazareth is located in the lower Galilee, just north of the valley of Jezreel.

The village is 15 miles west of the Sea of Galilee and 20 miles from the Mediterranean Sea.  Located on one of the major trade routes, the Galilee became a crossroads connecting Egypt to Asia, giving the region a mixed population of Israelites and Gentiles.  Its diverse population earned the Galilee the biblical title gelil haggoyim, "the region of the nations" (Isaiah 8:32).  In the division of the Promised Land among the twelve tribes of Israel, the tribes of Zebulun, Naphtali, Asher, and Issachar were allotted portions of the Galilee (Joshua 19:10-39).  It was the first territory within Israel to be attacked, conquered, and depopulated by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC (2 Kings 15:29).  The Prophet Isaiah prophesized the Galilee would be the first region where the Messiah would begin the promised restoration of the covenant people (Isaiah 9:1-6/7; quoted in Matthew 4:13-16).

Question: How does the suggested etymology of the place name Nazareth [Nazaret] as netzer, "shoot" or "branch," relate to Jesus' mission as the Messiah?  See Isaiah 11:1-2a ~ A shoot [geza] will spring from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot [netzer] will grow from his roots.  On him will rest the spirit of Yahweh... (NJB).  Who was Jesse in salvation history?  See Ruth 4:21-22.
Answer:  Isaiah used the Hebrew word netzer, "branch," as a reference to the promised Messiah who would come from the line of Jesse, the father of the great King David.
Note: The connection to the Hebrew word netzer as a Messianic title may be what St. Matthew was referring to when he wrote in Matthew 2:23 that prophecy was fulfilled when Joseph decided to settle in Nazareth after the holy family's return from Egypt: He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazorean."  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."

Luke 1:28 ~ And coming to her he said, "Hail favored one!  The Lord is with you."
The angel's first words to Mary were not the same first words he spoke to Zechariah (compare Luke 1:13 to Luke 1:28).  When an angel greets a mortal human, his first greeting is usually one of assurance: "Don't be afraid" (see Genesis 21:17; Judges 6:23; Daniel 10:12; Luke 1:12; 2:10; Revelation 1:18), but the archangel was himself overcome to be in the presence of this mortal woman who had been chosen to bear in her womb God Incarnate.  The poor English translation Gabriel's enthusiastic greeting to Mary in the New Jerusalem is: Rejoice, you who enjoy God's favor!  The New American Catholic Bible isn't much better with: Hail, favored one!  Other English translations which render this phrase "Oh, favored one," are also not an accurate reflection of the intention of the Greek text.

In Luke 1:28 the announcement in the literal Greek is: Chare, kecharitomene [kah-ray kay-kah-ree-toe-may-nay].  Gabriel's greeting began with a salutation which can be translated as: Chare = "Hail."  This was a greeting, in an era when the identification of one's social status was paramount, was commonly given to one of equal rank but more often a greeting to one who was superior in rank.  This word might be better translated as "Awesome one."  Notice that Gabriel did not greet Zechariah with the same degree of respect and status.  The angel continued by addressing 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). 

Gabriel addressed Mary by a title that identified her condition as having always been in a state of grace.  A past perfect participle indicates a condition that existed in the past and continues in the present.   A better translation of the entire greeting might be "Awesome one who has been perfected in and continues in grace."  The most common rendering of this phrase is "Full of grace."  It is a transliteration of St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation of the text.  However, "full of grace" is not what was being expressed in the Greek past perfect kecharitomene.  "Full of grace" in the Greek would be pleres chariots, as it is used for Christ in John 1:14 and 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 greatly troubled at what was said by the angel's greeting (Luke 1:29) is evidence that someone of her humble station had received a greeting that was highly unusual.(4)

Question: How did Gabriel's greeting validate the Church's doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary?
Answer: The past perfect participle, kecharitomene, is proof that Mary always existed in a state of grace, even at the moment of her human conception.  God had "saved" her in advance of her birth, as a prefigurement of the new birth that New Covenant believers would experience in the Sacrament of Baptism, where original sin is forgiven.  See CCC# 404-405.

 The fathers and doctors of the Church 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).

Also see CCC # 492-493; 722.

Gabriel continued in his greeting by adding: "The Lord is with you."
Question: What is the significance of this part of the angel's greeting?
Answer: More than a greeting, these words are an affirmation of Mary's unique condition in her relationship with God.

St. Augustine explained the depth of Gabriel's words to convey that the angel was saying when he wrote: "He is more with you than he is with me: he is in your heart, he takes shape within you, he fills your soul, he is in your womb..." (Sermon on the Nativity of God, 4).  At the end of verse 28 some early Greek texts include the words: Blessed are you among women!  It is an exultation that St. Elizabeth will later make during Mary's visit to her in Luke 1:42.

Question: What are the implications of Mary's state of blessedness in the context of salvation history as expressed by the phrase "Blessed are you among women?"
Answer: It expresses that God has exalted Mary over all the women ever born.   She is more blessed than the mothers of the children of the covenant (women like Sarah, or Rebecca, or Rachel, or Hannah) because she has been chosen to be the Mother of God (Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, will call her "the mother of my Lord" in Luke 1:43).

Luke 1:29-33 ~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." 

After this initial greeting, Mary's fear prompted the angel to reassure her with the words angels often use when coming into the presence of a frightened human:"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God" (Luke 1:30)Mary's fear does not imply any imperfection in her but rather her fear is a reflection of her natural reaction to this encounter with the supernatural.  Her fear also is a reflection of her humility.

Question: In Luke 1:30-33, Gabriel tells Mary that she had won God's favor and was to be the Mother of the Son of God.  What prophecy did these words fulfill?  Remember, the Jews of Mary's generation were looking for the fulfillment of these verses.  See Isaiah 7:14 and 9:1-6.
Answer: These significant verses are the prophecies of Isaiah in the 8th century BC.  The prophecy in 7:14 was the sign Isaiah gave to king Ahaz of the future deliverance of Israel when a virgin would give birth to a child who would be known as "God with us."  The prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-6 concerned the promised restoration of Israel in the future, after the Northern Kingdom was conquered and the ten tribes disbursed into the Gentile world by the Assyrians (prophecy fulfilled in 722BC).  The promised restoration was to begin in the Galilee.

In fact, you will recall from earlier in this lesson that in Matthew 1:20-24, when an angel appeared in a dream to Mary's betrothed, Joseph of Nazareth, to prepare him for the great honor of parenting the Son of God, the 7:14 passage from Isaiah is quoted as a fulfillment passage (Matthew 1:22).  St. Matthew also quoted the Isaiah 9:1-6 prophecy in Matthew 4:13-16.

34 But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"
Question: Why didn't Gabriel rebuke Mary as he had rebuked Zechariah?
Answer: Mary asked a very practical question in light of her virginity; she was not expressing a lack of faith or an unwillingness to cooperate in God's plan for her life.  God is not an impatient or overbearing Father who discourages questions from His children who are seeking to understand His will for their lives.

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.
Question: What is the significance of the angel's reply?  What does the "shadow" of God symbolize in Scripture?
Answer: He told her that the Spirit of God would "overshadow" her.  The "shadow" of God is symbolic of the presence of the Almighty.

Question: Can you think of events in the Old Testament when God presence was expressed as an "overshadowing" presence?   See Exodus 25:15-16; 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:7.
Answer: In the Exodus experience, when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai a cloud overshadowed the mountain (Exodus 25:15-16), and when God took possession of the Ark of the Covenant in the dedication of the desert Tabernacle a cloud overshadowed the Sanctuary which contained the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 40:34-35).  The same phenomenon was witnessed when God took possession the Ark in the Holy of Holies during the dedication of the Temple of God in Jerusalem that King Solomon built (1 Kings 8:7).

In the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament Bible, in use in the 1st century AD, the Greek verb used to describe the divine "overshadowing" of the Sanctuary and the Ark of the Covenant in Exodus 40:34-35 is the same Greek word, episkiazein (from the verb episkiazo), used to describe the Holy Spirit's "overshadowing" of the Virgin Mary in Luke 1:35 (see Septuagint Old Testament translation; Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, page 242).  The Greek word episkiazein is also used in the Transfiguration experience (Matthew 17:5; Luke 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 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 (Exodus 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 later placed in the Ark of the Covenant when it resided in Jerusalem Temple prior to its destruction by the Babylonians?  See Hebrews 9:4 and compare Mary's womb with the description of the contents of the Ark of the Covenant from Hebrews 9:4.
Answer:

Contents of the Ark of the Covenant according to Hebrews 9:4 Jesus Within Mary's Womb
The Ten Commandments = the word of God Jesus: the Living Word of God (Jn 1:1)
A pot of the manna, the bread from heaven Jesus: the Living Bread come down from heaven (Jn 6:51)
Aaron's staff or branch that came back to life as a sign of God's favor Jesus: "The Branch" of the House of David that died but came to life again.*
M. Hunt © 1998

*"Branch" is a prophetic title for the Messiah in the books of the prophets: Isaiah 4:2, 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12.

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 when Jeremiah hid the Ark and the Tent of the desert Sanctuary in a cave on Mt. Nebo in 387/6BC (see 2 Maccabees 2:1-8).  The Prophet Jeremiah foretold that the time would come when the box of the Ark would not be important to the covenant people (Jeremiah 3:16).
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?
Answer:  No! The Virgin Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant!

Question: What was the Holy Spirit's role in preparing Mary for the Incarnation of the Messiah, and what was the result?  See Genesis 3:15; Jeremiah 31:22, 31-34; CCC 723, 2776.
Answer:

  1. 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).
  2. 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 .... (Genesis 3:15)
  3. 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 two fold:

  1. Through the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit began to fulfill God's plan to bring humanity into communion with Christ.
  2. The Holy Spirit made Mary the Ark of the New Covenant because like the Ark of the Old Covenant that carried the Presence of God, she carried the Presence of God in her womb: For Yahweh is creating something new on earth: the Woman shall compass a man (Jeremiah 31:22b).  This is the literal Hebrew translation from Jeremiah's prophecy concerning promise of the New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31:22-34).  The "something new" 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.
THE VIRGIN MARY AS 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 God dwells. She is 'the dwelling of God [...] with men.'" CCC 2676
God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and then took possession of the Ark.  The Ark became the dwelling place of the presence of God (Ex 40:34-35). God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and the indwelled Mary's womb.  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 words of God in stone], a pot of manna, and Aaron's rod that came back to life (Dt 10:3-5; Heb 9:4). The womb of the Virgin contained Jesus: the living 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 her kinswoman 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 exclaimed with a loud cry of joy in the presence God within Mary (Lk 1:42).
David asked: How can the Ark of the Lord come to me? (2 Sam 6:9) Elizabeth asked: And how does this happen to 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 in Luke 1:39-45 concerning Mary at Elizabeth's house.
The Ark returned to its Sanctuary and eventually came to Jerusalem where the presence and glory of God was revealed in the newly built Temple (2 Sam 6:12; 1 Kgs 8:9-11).    Mary returned home from visiting Elizabeth and eventually came to Jerusalem, where she presented God the Son in the Temple (Lk 1:56; 2:21-22).
God made Aaron's wooden staff return to life and bud to prove he was the legitimate High Priest (Num 17:8).  His "branch" or staff was later placed in the Ark (Heb 9:4) God would resurrect His Son, who had become enfleshed in Mary's womb and who was born to bring salvation to all mankind, to prove He is the eternal High Priest (Heb 4:14).  
The Ark was taken from the Temple and hidden before the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/6BC (2 Mac 2:1-6).  It was not seen again until St. John reported seeing both the Ark and Mary the mother of the Christ in the heavenly Sanctuary (Rev 11:19). Revelation 11:19-12:1: Then God's temple in heaven opened and the Ark of his covenant could be seen in the Temple.  There were flashes of lightening, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm.  A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.   This "woman" is identified in 12:5 as the mother of Christ the King.  The 12:1 vision is a similar vision of Mary that Juan Diego saw in 1531, which we call the vision of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  
M. Hunt, copyright © 2002

In Luke 1:31-33 the angel Gabriel told Mary: you shall name him Jesus. In the Greek text of the New Testament, his 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 Hebrew name had evolved into the Aramaic Yehosua.
Question: What is the significance of the name "Yah'shua/Yehosua?"  What important person in the Old Testament had this same name? Hint: see Deuteronomy 31:1-8; Matthew 1:21.
Answer: Mary is told to the give the Messiah the Hebrew name Yah'shua [in proto-Hebrew] or Yehosua in the first century BC/AD.  An angel told Joseph the significance of the child's name in a dream: She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).  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." It is the same Hebrew name as Moses' successor, Joshua (Numbers 13:16).(5)

Question: How does Jesus' Hebrew name, Yah'shua, announce both His 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".

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: 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 salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Jesus is the promised son of David's line who will rule forever (Luke 1:32-33 and 2 Samuel 7:12-16).  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).
Question: Compare the promises the angel Gabriel made to Mary concerning Jesus' destiny in Luke 1:31-33 and the promises God made to King David in the promises of the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7.
Answer: Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises of the Davidic Covenant:

God's Promises to David in
2 Samuel 7:9-16
God's Promises to Mary in
Luke 1:31-33
" And will make you famous like the great ones of the earth" (literal translation = I will make your name great) (2 Sam 7:9b). ... and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great (Lk 1:32b).
The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you.  And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir... (2 Sam 7:11b-12). the Lord will give him the throne of his father David (Lk 1:32c).
I will be a father to him and he shall be a son to me (2 Sam 7:14a). [he] will be called Son of the Most High (Lk 1:32a).
And I will make his royal throne firm (literally = the throne of your kingdom I shall establish forever) (2 Sam 7:13).
Your house and your kingdom shall endure before me; your throne shall stand firm forever(2 Sam 7:16).
... and he will rule over the House of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will be no end (Lk 1:33).
M. Hunt © 2000

Both Moses and Joshua are "types" of Christ.  These men played an important role in God's plan for man's salvation.  Their ministries prefigured the mission of the Messiah in leading His people in the "new Exodus" liberation out of sin and death and in opening the way into the Promised Land of Heaven.

Typology is the method Christian students of the Bible use to understand the historical and theological relationships between people and events recorded in Sacred Scripture.  Typology guides the Bible student to look at each event and person in salvation history as that person or event may be linked to what preceded in the biblical record and linked to what will come after, uniting the reader to the divine mystery of the progression of God's plan for the salvation of mankind (CCC# 128-130).
Question: Compare Moses to Jesus.  How was Moses a "type" of Christ?
Answer:

MOASIC TYPOLOGY: JESUS THE GREATER THAN MOSES
From among their own brothers I shall raise up a prophet like yourself; I shall put my words into his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him.  Anyone who refuses to listen to my words, spoken by him in my name, will have to render an account to me.br />Deuteronomy 18:18-19
MOSES JESUS
When Moses was a baby, an evil king tried to kill him (Ex 1:22). King Herod tired to kill baby Jesus (Mt 2:16).
His parents hid from the evil king (Exodus 2:2). An angel told Mary and Joseph to hide the child (Matthew 2:13).
Moses was sent into Egypt to preserve his life (Ex 2:3-4). Jesus was taken into Egypt to preserve His life (Mt 2:13-15).
He was saved by women: his mother (Ex 2:3), his sister, Miriam (Ex 2:4), and Pharaoh's daughter (Ex 2:5-10).  His sister Miriam loved, supported, and experienced his struggles during his entire ministry.  Mary, Jesus' mother, saved and helped Jesus (Mt 2:14).  Mary [Hebrew = Miriam] loved and supported Him from the beginning of His ministry and suffered with Him at the Cross (Jn 19:25-27).
Pharaoh's daughter adopted Moses as her legal son (Ex 2:10). Joseph adopted Jesus as his legal son (Mt 1:25).
Moses became a prince of Egypt (Ex 2:10). Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
There was a long period of silence from Moses' childhood to his adulthood. There was a long period of silence from Jesus' childhood to His adulthood.
During part of his life Moses had a secret identity: he was an Egyptian prince who was the child of Hebrew slaves. During part of His life Jesus had a secret identity: Messianic secret = Jesus was the Son of God.
He tired to save a Hebrew kinsman (Ex 2:11-12). Jesus came to save His Hebrew kinsman (Mk 7:26-28).
Moses went from being a prince to a pauper (Ex 2:15-19). Jesus went from being God to being man (Jn 1:1-3; Mk 6:3).
He saved women at a well and one of them became Moses' bride (Ex 2:15-21). Jesus saved the soul of the Samaritan woman at a well (Jn 4:5-42).  She and all people were invited to become the New Covenant Church, the Bride of Christ (Rev 19:8).
Moses became a shepherd in Midian (Ex 3:1). Jesus, the Messiah is the Good Shepherd (Ez 34:1; Jn 10:11; Heb 13:20).
Moses' mission was to redeem Israel from slavery in Egypt (Ex 3:10).  Jesus' mission is to redeem His kinsmen and all mankind from slavery to sin and to liberate them all men from the power of death (Rom 3:25; 6:23). 
He was often rejected by his own people. Jesus was rejected by His own people.
Moses received God's Law on the mountain of Sinai (Ex 20-33), and enumerated God's covenant blessings (Lev 26:3-13). Jesus gave the new law from the Mt. of Beatitudes, enumerating the New Covenant blessings (Mt 5-7).
Moses was the prophet of the Old Covenant Church (Dt 18:15, 17). Jesus is the prophet, priest, and King of a New and everlasting Covenant = the Universal [Catholic] Church ( Dt 18:17-19; Jn 4:18; Heb 6:20-8:13; 2 Sam 7:16; 1 Tim 1:16-17; 6:14-15; Rev 17:14).
Moses offered to sacrifice his life for the lives of the covenant people when they sinned (Ex 32:30-33). Jesus would sacrifice His life for the redemption of mankind ( Mk 10:45; Rom 6:20-23; 1 Cor 5:7-8).
Moses was the leader of the old Exodus out of bondage in Egypt.  He redeemed his people from slavery and through him God formed Israel into a holy covenant people—the Old Covenant Church. Jesus is the leader of the new exodus out of bondage to sin.  He redeemed all people from the power of death.  Through Him a new covenant people were formed—a new Israel that was the New Covenant Universal [Catholic] Church.
Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt the day after the first Passover, leading them on the journey to freedom in the Promised land (Ex 12:37-42). During the feast days of Passover, God's Son led the New Covenant people out of slavery to sin through His sacrificial death & Resurrection so they could receive the promise of eternal life, the real Promised Land = heaven.

M. Hunt © 2000

See CCC# 129-130

Question: Jesus will be both a new Moses and a new Joshua. How is Joshua a "type" of Jesus the Messiah?
Answer:

THE TYPOLOGY OF JESUS AND JOSHUA
JOSHUA JESUS
His name meant "Yahweh saves." His name meant "Yahweh saves."
He was given his name by Moses, a messenger of God (Num 13:16). He was given his name by an angel, a spiritual messenger of God (Mt 1:21).
His mission was to defeat the Canaanites who were keeping the children of God from attaining the Promised Land (Dt 31:3-8) His mission was to defeat Satan, who was keeping the children of God from attaining the Promise Land of heaven (1 Jn 3:8).
Joshua completely submitted himself to the will of God (Jos 24:15). Jesus completely submitted Himself to the will of God (Mt 26:42).
He successfully opened the waters of the Jordan River and led the children of Israel into the Promised Land (Jos 4:10-18). Jesus successfully opened the gates of heaven and led the righteous dead into the Promised Land of heaven (1 Pt 3:19-20; 4:6; CCC# 536; 637; 1026).
Michal Hunt copyright © 2008

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."
The angel told Mary that her kinswoman Elizabeth was six months pregnant.  Most English translations use the word "cousin" when in fact the exact nature of the relationship is unknown.  The Greek word is a general term which is more accurately translated as "kinswoman" (Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. I, page 260).

After revealing to Mary the miracle that was also working in the life of her kinswoman Elizabeth, the angel Gabriel summed up his announcement of the birth of the Messiah and at the same time answered Mary's question in Luke 1:34 by the statement: for nothing will be impossible for God.
Question: Where is this same statement found in Old Testament Scripture and what are the circumstances associated with that declaration?  If Mary knew her Scriptures (and the numerous Scripture references in the Magnificat indicate that she did), she would have recognized this declaration and would have made the comparison between when it was used in Genesis and her knowledge of God's divine intervention in her life and the miracle in the lives of her elderly relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth.  See Genesis 18:1-15.
Answer: In Genesis chapter 18, three divine messengers visited Abraham and Sarah, revealing to them that Sarah was to give birth to a promised son (promised in Genesis 15:4 and 17:16-17).  Sarah expressed her amazement that, in her barren old age, she and her husband would conceive a child (at age 89 Sarah no longer had her monthly periods and Abraham was 99 years old).  In response, the angel told her: Nothing is impossible for Yahweh (Genesis 18:14, NJB).  A year later, when Sarah was 90 and Abraham 100, their miracle baby Isaac was born (Genesis 21:1-5).  The repetition of basically the same declaration made to the father and mother of her people by another divine messenger must have reassured Mary.  If God could make an old woman long past childbearing years fertile and give them a son, as He did with both Sarah and Elizabeth, He could give a virgin a child without the seed of a man.  God had worked great miracles in the past for her people and He was continuing to work out the salvation of man through other great acts of mercy.

Mary was now prepared to give her answer: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).
Question: How does Mary identify herself in the first part of her statement?  What Old Testament heroine identified her relationship to God in the same way?  See 1 Samuel 1:11. The Greek word is doule, the feminine of doulos = male slave/servant.  In the ancient world, all servants were slaves.
Answer: Mary humbly identified herself as God's female slave/servant.  Mary identified her relationship to God with the same humility as Hannah, the mother of the Prophet Samuel when she petitioned God to give her a son.

Then Mary completely submitted herself to the Lord with the words: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word." It is at this moment in Mary's verbal ascent that the Incarnation took place as God the Holy Spirit "overshadowed" and enveloped the Virgin Mary.  This is the same Spirit of God who moved over the face of the water of Creation, bringing life (Genesis 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 herself without the stain of sin, became the new Tabernacle of God and the Ark of the New Covenant (Revelation 11:19-12:1).  This is the mystery Catholics reflect upon every time they pray the Angelus:

"The angel of the Lord announced unto Mary.
And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,
blessed are you among women and
blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
Hail Mary, etc.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
Hail, Mary, etc.
Pour forth; we beseech Thee, O Lord,
Thy grace into our hearts;
that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son
>was made known by the message of an Angel,
may, by His passion and cross,
be brought to the glory of His Resurrection;
through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen"
(from Key of Heaven, 1906).

Once God's plan was revealed to her, Mary yielded herself in complete faithfulness and obedience, responding in perfectly humility to God's will for her life.  This is Mary's "fiat" = "let it be done."  In yielding herself to God in this moment, she became the first Christian and the model for all Christians of all generations throughout all the coming Ages of man (CCC# 967).

Commenting on this passage in his homily in Mexico City in January of 1979, Pope John Paul II noted that there are four dimensions to Mary's faithfulness:

Take a moment to reflect on the typology between the events of the Incarnation and events in the Old Testament.  Take for example, the typological link between the Virgin Mary and the Church.  The Church has always viewed Mary as a spiritual symbol of the Church as the virgin Bride of Christ. Like the Virgin Mary the Church is "ever virgin" and yet a "fruitful mother" (CCC# 972).  The Fathers of the Church also saw Abraham's servant, who was sent to find a virgin bride for Abraham and Sarah's son Isaac, as a symbolic "type" of God the Holy Spirit. 

Question: How is the Holy Spirit's role in the Incarnation similar to the role of Abraham's servant who was sent to secure a virgin bride for Isaac?  Who are the main characters in the story? See Genesis 24:1-67.  Hint: Does the Holy Spirit have a name?
Answer: The Holy Spirit is the only person of the Holy Trinity who does not have a personal name.  In the story in Genesis 24, the main characters in the story are the just father, Abraham, the unnamed servant, the virgin Rebekah, and the beloved son, Isaac. 

Question: The Church Fathers often referred to God the Holy Spirit as the "Unnamed Servant" in their writings.  They saw the mission of the Holy Spirit to the virgin bride Mary as similar to the mission of Abraham's unnamed servant in Genesis 24 when he sought a bride for Abraham's "beloved son" (Genesis 22:2) Isaac and found her drawing water at a well (Genesis 24:11-18).  Compare the major players in the Genesis narrative with the Most Holy Trinity, with Mary and with the New Covenant Church.  Also see CCC# 773; 829; 972.
Answer:God the Holy Spirit is the unnamed servant who, sent by the Father, finds the faithful virgin bride, Mary of Nazareth for the beloved Son.

Just Father Abraham Yahweh, God the Father
Beloved Son Isaac Jesus the Son
Servant Unnamed Servant Holy Spirit
The Virgin Bride Rebekah Mary / the Church

Question: What is the Holy Spirit's mission in the New Covenant?  How is His mission similar to the mission of Abraham's unnamed servant?
Answer: It is His mission to bring the "Bride"= the Church, to the Bridegroom = Christ:  However, when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth... (John 16:13; also see John 14:26; 15:26).  The Church Fathers also saw Mary as a symbol of the Church (CCC# 773; 829; 972).

Have you noticed that in the Bible, a bride is always courted at a well?

  1. Rebekah was courted by the unnamed servant sent by Abraham to find a bride for Isaac at a well (Genesis 24:1-67)
  2. Jacob met Rachel, his future bride, at a well (Genesis 29:1-18)
  3. The Midianite maiden Zipporah was rescued at a well by Moses and was later married to him (Exodus 2:16-22). 

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).

Click here for a picture of Mary's well in Nazareth:  Mary's well is located next to the Church of St. Gabriel in Nazareth.

Endnotes:
1. Mishnah: Ketubot; Fr. Fitzmyer, The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to Luke, page 343; J. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, page 368.
2. A non-canonical book written sometime between the 4th century BC and the turn of the era; it seems to have been widely quoted in the 1st century AD.  St. Michael is also identified as the leader of the Archangels in the non-canonical text, The Ascension of Isaiah, 3:16, and as the recording angel for the "Book of Life" in the same document, 9:19-23.
3. The Tridentine Mass is the Eucharistic liturgy according to the Roman Missal promulgated by the apostolic constitution Quo Primum of Pope Pius V on July 14, 1570. Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution, promulgating the Roman Missal revised the Tridentine (Etmy.  Latin from Tridentum, ancient form of "Trent, "referring to the Council of Trent) Mass by decree of Vatican II, April 3, 1969.
4. It is unlikely that the angel used the common Hebrew/Aramaic greeting, shalom.  The Greek word chaire, as a greeting is only found in the Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures four times.  In Zephaniah 3:14; Joel 2:21; and Zechariah 9:9, it is used in an address to the covenant people announcing a prophecy concerning the restoration of Israel.  The fourth time it is used is in Lamentations 4:21 as an ironic greeting announcing the judgment on Edom who will "drink God's cup of wrath" in judgment.
5. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon #2424 translate Iesous as "whose help is Yahweh." The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 3, page 773: Jesus Christ is a composite name made up of the personal name "Jesus" (from Gk Iesous, which transliterates Heb/Aram yesu(a), a late form of Hebrew Yehosua, the meaning of which is "YHWH is salvation" or YHWH saves/has saved")....

Catechism references for this lesson:
Genesis 3:15 (CCC 70, 410, 489)
Isaiah 7:14 (CCC 497)
Luke 1:26-27 (CCC 488); 1:26 (CCC 332); 1:28-37 (CCC 494); 1:28 (CCC 490, 491); 1:31 (CCC 430, 2812); 1:32-33 (CCC 709); 1:32 (CCC 559); 1:34 (CCC 484, 497, 505); 1:35 (CCC 437, 484, 486, 697); 1:37-38 (CCC 494); 1:37 (CCC 148, 269, 273, 276); 1:38 (CCC 64, 148, 510, 2617, 2677, 2827, 2856)

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.