Luke 1:28, 42
Hail Mary, full of grace: the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
Verse 28. Hail, full of grace: by the greatest share of divine graces granted to any creature. This translation, approved by the ancient Fathers, agrees with the ancient Syriac and Arabic versions. There was no need therefore to change it into gracious, with Erasmus; into freely beloved, with Beza; into highly favoured, with the Prot. translators. For if seven deacons (Acts vi. 3.) are said to be full of the Holy Ghost, as it is again said of S. Stephen, (Acts vii. 55.) and also of the same S. Stephen, (Acts vi. v. 8.) that he was full of grace, (as the learned Dr. Wells translates it in his amendments made to the Prot. translation) why should any one be offended at this salutation given to the blessed mother of God; who would not have been raised to this highest dignity, had not her soul been first prepared for it by the greatest share of divine graces? — The Lord is with thee, by his interior graces; and now, at this moment, is about to confer upon thee the highest of all dignities, by making thee truly the mother of God. Wi. — The Catholic Church makes frequent use of these words which were brought by the archangel from heaven, as well to honour Jesus Christ and his virgin Mother, as because they were the first glad tidings of Christ’s incarnation, and man’s salvation; and are the very abridgment and sum of the whole gospel. In the Greek Church, they are used daily in the Mass. See the Liturgy of S. James, and that of S. Chrysos.
Verse 42. In the same words she is pronounced blessed by Elizabeth, and by the angel Gabriel, both inspired by the Holy Ghost, and this not only to the praise of Jesus, but for his sake, to the praise of Mary, calling her blessed, and her fruit blessed; and thus, as Ven. Bede asserts, holding her up to the veneration of both men and angels.
2157: The Author, the Time of Composition, the Historical Truth of the Gospels According to Mark and According to Luke
Reply of the Biblical Commission, June 26, 1912
III. Whether one may likewise doubt the inspiration and canonicity of the accounts given by Luke of the infancy of Christ [Luke 1-2]; or the apparition of the Angel strengthening Christ, and the sweat of blood [Luke 22:43 f.]; or whether it can at least be shown by solid reasons–as pleased the ancient heretics, and is agreeable also to some more recent critics–that the said accounts do not belong to the genuine Gospel of Luke?–Reply: In the negative to both parts.
28. And the angel came in to her, and said, Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women. 29. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
AMBROSE; Mark the virgin by her manner of life. Alone in an inner chamber, unseen by the eyes of men, discovered only by an angel; as it is said, And the angel came in to her. That she might not be dishonored by any ignoble address, she is saluted by an angel.
**GREG. NYSS. Far different then to the news formerly addressed to the woman, is the announcement now made to the Virgin. In the former, the cause of sin was punished by the pains of childbirth; In the latter, through gladness, sorrow is driven away. Hence the angel not unaptly proclaims joy to the Virgin, saying, Hail.
GREEK EX. But that she was judged worthy of the nuptials is attested by his saying, Full of grace. For it is signified as a kind of token or marriage gift of the bridegroom, that she was fruitful in graces. For of the things which he mentions, the one appertains to the bride, the other to the bridegroom.
JEROME; And it is well said, Full of grace, for to others, grace comes in part; into Mary at once the fullness of grace wholly infused itself. She truly is full of grace through whom has been poured forth upon every creature the abundant rain of the Holy Spirit. But already He was with the Virgin Who sent the angel to the Virgin. The Lord preceded His messenger, for He could not be confined by place Who dwells in all places. Whence it follows, The Lord is with you.
AUG. More I than with me, for He Himself is in your heart, He is (made) in you womb, He fills your soul, He fills your womb.
GREEK EX. But this is the sum of the whole message. The Word of God, as the Bridegroom, effecting an incomprehensible union, Himself, as it were, the same both planting, and being planted, has molded the whole nature of man into Himself. But comes last the most perfect and comprehensive salutation; Blessed are you among women. i.e. Alone, far before all other women; that women also should be blessed in you, as men are in your Son; but rather both in both. For as by one man and one woman came at once both sin and sorrow, so now also by one woman and one man has both blessing and joy been restored, and poured forth upon all.
AMBROSE; But mark the Virgin by her bashfulness, for she was afraid, as it follows; And when she heard, she was troubled. It is the habit of virgins to tremble, and to be ever afraid at the presence of man, and to be shy when he addresses her. Learn, O virgin, to avoid light talking. Mary feared even the salutation of an angel.
GREEK EX. But as she might be accustomed to these visions, the Evangelist ascribes her agitation not to the vision, but to the things told her, saying, she was troubled at his words. Now observe both the modesty and wisdom of the Virgin; the soul, and at the same time the voice. When she heard the joyful words, she pondered them in her mind, and neither openly resisted through unbelief, nor forthwith lightly complied; avoiding equally the inconstancy of Eve, and the insensibility of Zacharias. Hence it is said, And she cast in her mind what manner of salutation this was, it is not said conception for as yet she knew not the vastness of the mystery. But the salutation, was there aught of passion in it as from a man to a virgin? or was it not of God, seeing that he makes mention of God, saying, The Lord is with you.
AMBROSE; She wondered also at the new form of blessing, unheard of before, reserved for Mary alone.
ORIGEN; For if Mary had known that similar words had been addressed to others, such a salutation would never have appeared to her so strange and alarming.
39. And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40. And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42. And she spoke out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44. For, lo, as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
AMBROSE; The Angel, when he announced the hidden mysteries to the Virgin, that he might build up her faith by an example, related to her the conception of a barren woman. When Mary heard it, it was not that she disbelieved the oracle, or was uncertain about the messenger, or doubtful of the example, but rejoicing in the fulfillment of her wish, and conscientious in the observance of her duty, she gladly went forth into the hill country. For what could Mary now, filled with God, but ascend into the higher parts with haste!
ORIGEN; For Jesus who was in her womb hastened to sanctify John, still in the womb of his mother. Whence it follows, with haste.
AMBROSE; The grace of the Holy Spirit knows not of slow workings. Learn, you virgins, not to loiter in the streets, nor mix in public talk.
THEOPHYL. She went into the mountains, because Zacharias dwelt there. As it follows, To a city of Juda, and entered into the house of Zacharias.
Learn, O holy women, the attention which you ought to show for your kinswomen with child. For Mary, who before dwelt alone in the secret of her chamber, neither virgin modesty caused to shrink from the public gaze, nor the rugged mountains from pursuing her purpose, nor the tediousness of the journey from performing her duty. Learn also, O virgins, the lowliness of Mary. She came a kinswoman to her next of kin, the younger to the elder, nor did she merely come to her, but was the first to give her salutations; as it follows, And she saluted, Elisabeth. For the more chaste a virgin is, the more humble she should be, and ready to give way to her elders. Let her then be the mistress of humility, in whom is the profession of chastity. Mary is also a cause of piety, in that the higher went to the lower, that the lower might be assisted, Mary to Elisabeth, Christ to John.
CHRYS. Or else the Virgin kept to herself all those things which have been said, not revealing them to any one, for she did not believe that any credit would be given to her wonderful story; nay, she rather thought she would suffer reproach if she told it, as if wishing to screen her own guilt.
GREEK EX. But to Elisabeth alone she has recourse, as she was wont to do from their relationship, and other close bonds of union.
AMBROSE; But soon the blessed fruits of Mary’s coming and our Lord’s presence are made evident. For it follows, And it came to pass, that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb. Mark the distinction and propriety of each word. Elisabeth first heard the word, but John first experienced the grace. She heard by the order of nature, he leaped by reason of the mystery. She perceived the coming of Mary, he the coming of the Lord.
GREEK EX. For the Prophet sees and hears more acutely than his mother, and salutes the chief of Prophets; but as he could not do this in words, he leaps in the womb, which was the greatest token of his joy. Who ever heard of leaping at a time previous to birth? Grace introduced things to which nature was a stranger. Shut up in the womb, the soldier acknowledged his Lord and King soon to be born, the womb’s covering being no obstacle to the mystical sight.
ORIGEN; He was not filled with the Spirit, until she stood near him who bore Christ in her womb. Then indeed he was both filled with the Spirit, and leaping imparted the grace to his mother; as it follows, And Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. But we cannot doubt that she who was then filled with the Holy Spirit, was filled because of her son.
AMBROSE; She who had hid herself because she conceived a son, began to glory that she carried in her womb a prophet, and she who had before blushed, now gives her blessing; as it follows, And she spoke out with a loud voice, Blessed are you among women. With a loud voice she exclaimed when she perceived the Lord’s coming, for she believed it to be a holy birth.
But she says, Blessed are you among women. For none was ever partaker of such grace or could be, since of the one Divine seed, there is one only parent.
BEDE; Mary is blessed by Elisabeth with the same words as before by Gabriel, to show that she was to be reverenced both by men and angels.
THEOPHYL. But because there have been other holy women who yet have borne sons stained with sin, she adds, And blessed is the fruit of your womb. Or another interpretation is, having said, Blessed are you among women, she then, as if some one inquired the cause, answers, And blessed is the fruit of your womb: as it is said, Blessed be he that comes in the name of the Lord. The Lord God, and he has shown us light; for the Holy Scriptures often use “and” instead of “because”.
TITUS BOST. Now she rightly calls the Lord the fruit of the virgin’s womb, because He proceeded not from man, but from Mary alone. For they who are sown by their fathers are the fruits of their fathers.
GREEK EX. This fruit alone then is blessed, because it is; produced without man, and without sin.
BEDE; This is the fruit which is promised to David, Of the fruit of your body will I set upon your throne.
From this place we derive the refutation of Eutyches, in that Christ is stated to be the fruit of the womb. For all fruit is of the same nature with the tree that bears it. It remains then that the virgin was also of the same nature with the second Adam, who takes away the sins of the world. But let those also who invent curious fictions concerning the flesh of Christ, blush when they hear of the real child-bearing of the mother of God. For the fruit itself proceeds from the very substance of the tree. Where too are those who say that Christ passed through the virgin as water through an aqueduct? Let these consider the words of Elisabeth who was filled with the Spirit, that Christ was the fruit of the womb. It follows, And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
AMBROSE; She says it not ignorantly, for she knew it was by the grace and operation of the Holy Spirit that the mother of the prophet should be saluted by the mother of his Lord, to the advancement and growth of her own pledge; but being aware that this was of no human deserving, but a gift of Divine grace, she therefore says, Whence is this to me, that is, By what right of mine, by what that I have done, for what good deeds?
ORIGEN; Now in saying this, she coincides with her son. For John also felt that he was unworthy of our Lord’s coming to him. But she gives the name of “the mother of our Lord” to one still a virgin, thus forestalling the event by the words of prophecy. Divine foreknowledge brought Mary to Elisabeth, that the testimony of John might reach the Lord. For from that time Christ ordained John to be a prophet. Hence it follows, For, lo, as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded, &c.
AUG. But in order to say this, as the Evangelist has premised, she was filled with the Holy Spirit, by whose revelation undoubtedly she knew what that leaping of the child meant; namely, that the mother of Him had come to her, whose forerunner and herald that child was to be. Such then might be the meaning of so great an event; to be known indeed by grown up persons, but not understood by a little child; for she said not, “The babe leaped in faith in my womb,” but leaped for joy. Now we see not only children leaping for joy, but even the cattle; not surely from any faith or religious feeling, or any rational knowledge. But this joy was strange and unwonted, for it was in the womb; and at the coming of her who was to bring forth the Savior of the world. This joy, therefore, and as it were reciprocal salutation to the mother of the Lord, was caused (as miracles are) by Divine influences in the child, not in any human way by him. For even supposing the exercise of reason and the will had been so far advanced in that child, as that he should be able in the bowels of his mother to know, believe, and assent; yet surely that must be placed among the miracles of Divine power, not referred to human examples.
THEOPHYL. The mother of our Lord had come to see Elisabeth, as also the miraculous conception, from which the Angel had told her should result the belief of a far greater conception, to happen to herself; and to this belief the words of Elisabeth refer, And blessed are you who have believed, for there shall be a performance of those things which were told you from the Lord.
AMBROSE; You see that Mary doubted not but believed, and therefore the fruit of faith followed.
BEDE; Nor is it to be wondered at, that our Lord, about to redeem the world, commenced His mighty works with His mother, that she, through whom the salvation of all men was prepared, should herself be the first to reap the fruit of salvation from her pledge.
AMBROSE; But happy are you also who have heard and believed, for whatever soul has believed, both conceives and brings forth the word of God, and knows His works.
BEDE; But every soul which has conceived the word of God in the heart, straightway climbs the lofty summits of the virtues by the stairs of love, so as to be able to enter into the city of Juda, (into the citadel of prayer and praise, and abide as it were for three months in it,) to the perfection of faith, hope, and charity.
GREG. She was touched with the spirit of prophecy at once, both as to the past, present, and future. She knew that Mary had believed the promises of the Angel; she perceived when she gave her the name of mother, that Mary was carrying in her womb the Redeemer of mankind; and when she foretold that all things would be accomplished, she saw also what was as to follow in the future.