In those days, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the Angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the Angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou has found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a Son: and thou shalt call His name Jesus.
Verse 27. The word Miriam, or Mary, is expounded by S. Jerom from different etymologies, to signify in Hebrew, star of the sea, and in Chaldaic, lady. Both interpretations admirably well agree with her, who is the glorious Queen of heaven, our patroness and star, to direct us in the stormy ocean of this world. — “O you,” cries out S. Bernard, “who find yourselves tossed to and fro in this tempestuous life, turn not your eyes away from the brightness of this star, if you would not be overwhelmed in these storms. If the winds of temptations arise; if you fall among the rocks of tribulation; look up to the star, call upon Mary. If you are agitated, and hard driven with the surges of pride, ambition, detraction, jealousy, or envy; look up to the star, call upon Mary. If anger, covetousness, or lust, beat furiously on the vessel of your soul; look up to the star, call upon Mary. If you are beginning to founder, and are just sinking into the gulph of melancholy and despair; think on Mary. In dangers, in distresses, in perplexities, think on Mary, call on Mary. Let her name be never absent from your mouth; from your mouth let it constantly descend into your heart; and, that you may obtain the suffrage of her prayers; both in life and death, never depart from the example of her pious conversation.” S. Bernard, hom. ii. super Missus est.
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 29. When she had heard. In the Greek text, when she had seen; as if she also saw the angel, as S. Ambrose observed. Wi.
Verse 31. It may perhaps in the first instance of reflection, appear shocking to our ideas, that a God should dwell in a human body; but does not the sun emit its rays into all kinds of places, without any detriment to its purity? How much more would the Sun of justice, assuming a most pure body, formed of the purest blood of the spotless Virgin, not only remain free from every the least stain himself, but even impart additional sanctity to his virgin Mother. S. Thos. Aquinas.
26. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
BEDE. Because either the Incarnation of Christ was to be in the sixth age of the world, or because it was to serve to the fulfilling of the law, rightly in the sixth month of John’s conception was an angel sent to Mary, to tell her that a Saviour should be born. Hence it is said, And in the sixth month, &c. We must understand the sixth month to be March, on the twenty-fifth day of which our Lord is reported to have been conceived, and to have suffered, as also to have been born on the twenty-fifth day of December. But if either the one day we believe to be the vernal equinox, or the other the winter solstice, it happens that with the increase of light He was conceived or born Who lighteneth every man that cometh into the world. But if any one shall prove, that before the time of our Lord’s nativity or conception, light began either to increase, or supersede the darkness, we then say, that it was because John, before the appearance of His coming, began to preach the kingdom of heaven.
BASIL. (in Esai. 6.) The heavenly spirits visit us, not as it seems fit to them, but as the occasion conduces to our advantage, for they are ever looking upon the glory and fulness of the Divine Wisdom; hence it follows, The angel Gabriel was sent.
GREGORY. (Hom. 34, in Evan.) To the virgin Mary was sent, not any one of the angels, but the archangel Gabriel; for upon this service it was meet that the highest angel should come, as being the bearer of the highest of all tidings. He is therefore marked by a particular name, to signify what was his effectual part in the work. For Gabriel is interpreted, “the strength of God.” By the strength of God then was He to be announced Who was coming as the God of strength, and mighty in battle, to put down the powers of the air.
GLOSS. (interlin.) But the place is also added whither he is sent, as it follows, To a city, Nazareth. For it was told that He would come a Nazarite, (i. e. the holy of the holy.)
BEDE. (in Homil. de fest Annunt.) It was a fit beginning for man’s restoration, that an angel should be sent down from God to consecrate a virgin by a divine birth, for the first cause of man’s perdition was the Devil sending a serpent to deceive a woman by the spirit of pride.
AUGUSTINE. (de san. Virg. cap. vi.) To a virgin, for Christ could be born from virginity alone, seeing He could not have an equal in His birth. It was necessary for our Head by this mighty miracle to be born according to the flesh of a virgin, that He might signify that his members were to be born in the spirit of a virgin Church.
PSEUDO-JEROME. (Hieron. vol. xi. 92. De Assumpt.) And rightly an angel is sent to the virgin, because the virgin state is ever akin to that of angels. Surely in the flesh to live beyond the flesh is not a life on earth but in heaven.
CHRYSOSTOM. (sup. Mat. Hom. 4.) The angel announces the birth to the virgin not after the conception, lest she should be thereby too much troubled, but before the conception he addresses her, not in a dream, but standing by her in visible shape. For as great indeed were the tidings she receives, she needed before the issue of the event an extraordinary visible manifestation.
AMBROSE. Scripture has rightly mentioned that she was espoused, as well as a virgin, a virgin, that she might appear free from all connexion with man; espoused, that she might not be branded with the disgrace of sullied virginity, whose swelling womb seemed to bear evident marks of her corruption. But the Lord had rather that men should cast a doubt upon His birth than upon His mother’s purity. He knew how tender is a virgin’s modesty, and how easily assailed the reputation of her chastity, nor did He think the credit of His birth was to be built up by His mother’s wrongs. It follows therefore, that the holy Mary’s virginity was of as untainted purity as it was also of unblemished reputation. Nor ought there, by an erroneous opinion, to be left the shadow of an excuse to living virgins, that the mother of our Lord even seemed to be evil spoken of. But what could be imputed to the Jews, or to Herod, if they should seem to have persecuted an adulterous offspring? And how could He Himself say, I came not to abolish the law, but to fulfil it, (Matt. 5:18.) if He should seem to have had his beginning from a violation of the law, for the issue of an unmarried person is condemned by the law? (Deut. 23:17.) Not to add that also greater credit is given to the words of Mary, and the cause of falsehood removed? For it might seem that unmarried becoming pregnant, she had wished to shade her guilt by a lie; but an espoused person has no reason for lying, since to women child-birth is the reward of wedlock, the grace of the marriage bed. Again, the virginity of Mary was meant to baffle the prince of the world, who, when he perceived her espoused to a man, could cast no suspicion on her offspring.
ORIGEN. For if she had had no husband, soon would the thought have stolen into the Devil’s mind, how she who had known no man could be pregnant. It was right that the conception should be Divine, something more exalted than human nature.
AMBROSE. But still more has it baffled the princes of the world, for the malice of devils soon detects even hidden things, while they who are occupied in worldly vanities, can not know the things of God. But moreover, a more powerful witness of her purity is adduced, her husband, who might both have been indignant at the injury, and revenged the dishonour, if he also had not acknowledged the mystery; of whom it is added, Whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.
BEDE. (in Homil. de Annunt. sup.) Which last applies not only to Joseph, but also to Mary, for the Law commanded that every one should take a wife out of his own tribe or family. It follows, And the virgin’s name was Mary.
BEDE. Maria, in Hebrew, is the star of the sea; but in Syriac it is interpreted Mistress, and well, because Mary was thought worthy to be the mother of the Lord of the whole world, and the light of endless ages.
28. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou 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 unto her. That she might not be dishonoured by any ignoble address, she is saluted by an angel.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Diem Nat. Orat. in Christi.) 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 EXPOSITOR. (Geometer) 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.
PSEUDO-JEROME. (Jerome sup.) And it is well said, Full of grace, for to others, grace comes in part; into Mary at once the fulness 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 thee.
PSEUDO-AUGUSTINE. (Aug. in Serm. de Annunt. iii. app. 195.) More than with me, for He Himself is in thy heart, He is (made) in thy womb, He fills thy soul, He fills thy womb.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer) 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, hath moulded the whole nature of man into Himself. But comes last the most perfect and comprehensive salutation; Blessed art thou among women. i. e. Alone, far before all other women; that women also should be blessed in thee, as men are in thy 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 hath 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 EXPOSITOR. (sup.) 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 thee.
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.
30. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
When the angel saw that she was troubled at this unusual salutation, calling her by her name as if she was well known to him, he tells her she must not fear, as it follows; And the angel said, Fear not, Mary.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Photius.) As if he said, I came not to deceive you, nay rather to bring down deliverance from deception; I came not to rob you of your inviolable virginity, but to open a dwelling-place for the Author and Guardian of thy purity; I am not a servant of the Devil, but the ambassador of Him that destroyeth the Devil. I am come to form a marriage treaty, not to devise plots. So far then was he from allowing her to be harassed by distracting thoughts, lest he should be counted a servant unfaithful to his trust.
CHRYSOSTOM. But he who earns favour in the sight of God has nothing to fear. Hence it follows, For thou hast found favour before God. But how shall any one find it, except through the means of his humility. For God giveth grace to the humble. (James 4:6, 1 Pet. 5:5.)
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (ubi sup.) For the Virgin found favour with God, in that decking her own soul in the bright robes of chastity, she prepared a dwelling-place pleasing to God. Not only did she retain her virginity inviolate, but her conscience also she kept from stain. As many had found favour before Mary, he goes on to state what was peculiar to her. Behold, thou shall conceive in thy womb.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer.) By the word behold, he denotes rapidity and actual presence, implying that with the utterance of the word the conception is accomplished.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Sev. Antiochenus.) Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, that he might shew that our Lord from the very Virgin’s womb, and of our substance, took our flesh upon Him. For the Divine Word came to purify man’s nature and birth, and the first elements of our generation. And so without sin and human seed, passing through every stage as we do, He is conceived in the flesh, and carried in the womb for the space of nine months.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer.) But since it happens also that to the spiritual mind is given in an especial manner to conceive the Divine Spirit, and bring forth the Spirit of salvation, as says the Prophet; therefore he added, And thou shalt bring forth a Son. (Is. 26:18.)
AMBROSE. But all are not as Mary, that when they conceive the word of the Holy Spirit, they bring forth; for some put forth the word prematurely, others have Christ in the womb, but not yet formed.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Orat. in Diem Nat.) While the expectation of child-birth strikes a woman with terror, the sweet mention of her offspring calms her, as it is added, And thou shall call his name Jesus. The coming of the Saviour is the banishing of all fear.
BEDE. Jesus is interpreted Saviour, or Healing.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geom. sup.) And he says, Thou shalt call, not His father shall call, for He is without a father as regards His lower birth, as He is without a mother in respect of the higher.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (de fide ad Theod.) But this name was given anew to the Word in adaptation to His nativity in the flesh; as that prophecy saith, Thou shalt be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord hath named. (Is. 62:2.)
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (sup.) But as this name was common to Him with the successor of Moses, the angel therefore implying that He should not be after Joshua’s likeness, adds, He shall be great. (Josh. 1.)
AMBROSE. It was said also of John, that he shall be great, but of him indeed as of a great man, of Christ, as of the great God. For abundantly is poured forth the power of God; widely the greatness of the heavenly substance extended, neither confined by place, nor grasped by thought; neither determined by calculation, nor altered by age.
ORIGEN. See then the greatness of the Saviour, how it is diffused over the whole world. Go up to heaven, see there how it has filled the heavenly places; carry thy thoughts down to the deep, behold, there too He has descended. If thou seest this, then, in like manner, beholdest thou fulfilled in very deed, He shall be great.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Photius.) The assumption of our flesh does not diminish ought from the loftiness of the Deity, but rather exalts the lowness of man’s nature. Hence it follows, And he shall be called the Son of the Highest. Not, Thou shalt give Him the name, but He Himself shall be called. By whom, but His Father of like substance with Himself? For no one hath known the Son but the Father. (Matt. 11:27.) But He in Whom exists the infallible knowledge of His Son, is the true interpreter as to the name which should be given Him, when He says, This is my beloved Son; (Matt. 17:5.) for such indeed from everlasting He is, though His name was not revealed till now; therefore he says, He shall be called, not shall be made or begotten. For before the worlds He was of like substance with the Father. Him therefore thou shalt conceive; His mother thou shalt become; Him shall thy virgin shrine enclose, Whom the heavens were not able to contain.
CHRYSOSTOM. (non occ.) But since it seems shocking or unworthy to some men that God should inhabit a body, is the Sun, I would ask, the heat whereof is felt by each body that receives its rays, at all sullied as to its natural purity? Much more then does the Sun of Righteousness, in taking upon Himself a most pure body from the Virgin’s womb, escape not only defilement, but even shew forth His own mother in greater holiness.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Severus Antiochenus.) And to make the Virgin mindful of the prophets, he adds, And the Lord God shall give unto him the seat of David, that she might know clearly, that He Who is to be born of her is that very Christ, Whom the prophets promised should be born of the seed of David.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (contra Julian lib. viii.) Not however from Joseph proceeded the most pure descent of Christ. For from one and the same line of connexion had sprung both Joseph and the Virgin, and from this the only-begotten had taken the form of man.
BASIL. (Epist. 236. ad Amphil.) Our Lord sat not on the earthly throne of David, the Jewish kingdom having been transferred to Herod. The seat of David is that on which our Lord reestablished His spiritual kingdom which should never be destroyed. Hence it follows, And he shall reign over the house of Jacob.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. vii. in Matt.) Now He assigns to the present house of Jacob all those who were of the number of the Jews that believed on Him. For as Paul says, They are not all Israel which are of Israel, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
BEDE. Or by the house of Jacob he means the whole Church which either sprang from a good root, or though formerly a wild olive branch, has yet been for a reward of its faith grafted into the good olive tree. (Rom. 11:17.)
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer.) But to reign for ever is of none save God alone; and hence though because of the incarnation Christ is said to receive the seat of David, yet as being Himself God He is acknowledged to be the eternal King. It follows, And, his kingdom shall have no end, not in that He is God, but in that He is man also. Now indeed He has the kingdom of many nations, but finally he shall reign over all, when all things shall be put under Him. (1 Cor. 15:25.)
BEDE. Let Nestorius then cease to say that the Virgin’s Son is only man, and to deny that He is taken up by the Word of God into the unity of the Person. For the Angel when he says that the very same has David for His father whom he declares is called the Son of the Highest, demonstrates the one Person of Christ in two natures. The Angel uses the future tense (vocabitur, regnabit) not because, as the Heretics say, Christ was not before Mary, but because in the same person, man with God shares the same name of Son.