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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Luke 1:26–38. Mat. 1:18–25]

SIX months later, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a virgin living in a city of Galilee, called Nazareth (Fig. 61, p. 386). The virgin’s name was Mary, and she was espoused to a man called Joseph, and they both belonged to the house of David. The angel being come in, said to her: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.”

Mary, hearing these words, was disturbed and troubled, wondering what this strange salutation meant. But the angel spoke again: “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give Him the throne of David His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.”

 

Fig. 61. Church of the Annunciation at Nazareth. (Phot. Dr. Trenkler & Co., Leipzig.)

Mary asked how this could be, seeing that she was a virgin. The angel answered: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also, the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age, because no word shall be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word!” The angel, having thus delivered his message, and having obtained the consent of Mary, departed from her.

Joseph knew not yet that Mary was the chosen Mother of the Saviour, but an angel of the Lord appeared to him also in his sleep, and said: “Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary, thy wife, for That which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. And thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.”

The Incarnation of the Son of God (the third article of the Creed). The Son of God, who is also called “the Word”, became incarnate, i. e. flesh or man by the power of the Holy Ghost, being “conceived of the Holy Ghost”, i. e. having no human father—St. Joseph being only his foster-father or legal father [in the eyes of the law]—, and “born of Mary the most pure Virgin”. St. John (1:18) says: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” When the Son of God became man, He did not cease to be God, for that would have been quite impossible, but He assumed the human nature unto His Divine Person. There are, therefore, two natures in Jesus Christ, the divine nature and the human nature, but there is only one person in Him, the person of God the Son. Jesus Christ is therefore God and Man, the Son of God and the Son of David, the true Emmanuel, i. e. God with us.

Proof of our Lord’s Divinity taken from the angel’s words. Firstly, Gabriel said that Jesus was the “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God”. Secondly, he said that Jesus should “save His people from their sins”. Now, God alone can redeem from sin; therefore Jesus must be God.

Fulfilment of the prophecies. This chapter relates how those prophecies were fulfilled which foretold, firstly, that the Redeemer would be born of a virgin; and secondly, that He would be a descendant of David.

Mary co-operated in our salvation by giving her consent to become the Mother of the Saviour. The angel of the Lord was sent to Mary in order to procure this consent. The time had arrived, and the Son of God was ready to descend from heaven and become Man. It only remained for her, whom God the Father had chosen to be the Mother of His Son, to give her consent to be so. The angel of God therefore explained this great mystery, and waited for her answer, on which depended the salvation of the world. While meditating upon that decisive moment, St. Bernard uttered this prayer to Mary: “Now, O Virgin, thou hast heard what is to be, and how it is to be. Both mysteries are exceeding joyous and wonderful. But the angel awaits thine answer, for it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too, O Mary, our Queen, we who are weighed down by the divine sentence, we wait for thy speech, thy words of mercy. For behold, the price of our redemption is offered to thee; and as soon as thou dost accept it, we shall be saved. We were all created by the eternal word of God, and yet, behold, we die! But if thou wilt speak one little word, we shall live! Speak then, Oh, speak that decisive word. Adam and his unhappy children, banished from Paradise, beseech this of thee! David and all our holy fathers—thy fathers too—beseech thee! The whole world, prostrate before thee, looks to thee and beseeches! On thy words depend the comfort of the afflicted, the deliverance of the condemned, the salvation of the children of Adam! Hesitate not, O Virgin! Speak, O Mary, that sweet word of consent, which we who are on the earth, and under the earth, now wait for!” Mary, as you know, did utter that decisive word of compliance: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word!” By these glorious and precious words she pronounced the longed-for consent. Our Redemption began from the moment in which Mary acknowledged herself to be the handmaid of the Lord, and became the Mother of God! It is therefore reasonable, just, and right that all Christians should honour Mary as the “cause of our joy”, in the words of her Litany, and should venerate her as the “Mother most pure”, through whom our Redeemer was given to us. The Feast of her Annunciation is kept on March 25th.

The Angelical Salutation (the Hail Mary). A pious writer (Ludolphus) says about this salutation: “Mark well: God the Father entrusted the angel with this salutation, sending it by him to the Virgin. Therefore, never can she be addressed in words more honourable, more pleasing, or more agreeable to her.”

The Angelus. Besides the Hail Mary, thrice repeated, the Angelus contains: 1. the message of the angel; 2. the consent of Mary; 3. the result of her consent, namely, the Incarnation of the Son of God. It therefore reminds us of the beginning of our Redemption and of the part Mary had in it. The words which it contains and which are repeated by us three times every day, are more important, more significant and more precious than any other words that human lips can utter, with the exception of the “Our Father”.

The virtues of Mary. The story we have just heard shows forth especially Mary’s faith, chastity, and humility. Firstly, the angel announced to her something stupendous, namely, that God was about to become Man, and that she, without losing her virginity, was to be His Mother: and Mary confidently believed what was told her. Secondly, she had made a vow of virginity, in the full persuasion that the state of virginity was a far higher one and far more pleasing to God than that of maternity. This being perfectly true, God combined the two in her case and gave her the glory of both states. Lastly, her humility has been shown forth. She was troubled by the angel’s respectful manner of salutation, and, in spite of all he had said, she still called herself the handmaid of the Lord. “God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.” (James 4:6.) Mary, in real humility, abased herself; therefore God raised her to the highest dignity.

Comparison between Eve and Mary. Eve was the mother of all mankind, according to the flesh: Mary is the spiritual mother of all the faithful. Both entered life without the stain of sin, and in a state of grace; but Eve lost grace, while Mary, on the contrary, preserved it and increased it by corresponding with it. Eve thoughtlessly allowed herself to be deceived by the devil, without asking herself whether it were a good or an evil spirit who spoke through the serpent; but Mary pondered, and asked herself whether the salutation of the angel came from God or not. Eve conversed with the devil, for the ruin of man: Mary with Gabriel, for the salvation of man. Eve sinned by unbelief: while Mary believed the wonderful message which God sent. Eve sinned by pride, wishing to be as God: Mary was humble, calling herself the handmaid of the Lord. Eve was disobedient to God: Mary gave herself over entirely to His will. Eve consented to sin: Mary to God’s will. Eve, by her pride, degraded herself, and brought sin and death on all mankind: Mary, by her humility, was herself exalted, and through her Divine Son gave grace and life to the world. As far as she could, Mary paid the debt owed by Eve to the human race. Eve was the mother of the curse: Mary of the blessing. She is the true mother of the living, the new and better Eve. These striking contrasts are, of course, the result not of accident, but of the action of the mysterious wisdom and counsel of God, and they teach us to value God’s merciful Providence.

APPLICATION. Do you say the Angelus regularly three times a day? Do you uncover your head when you hear the Angelus-bell ring? Always repeat the Hail Mary very devoutly. Salute our Lady with as much reverence as did the holy angel. And while you are saying the Angelus, meditate on Mary’s humility, and on the love of the Son of God who became Man for love of us.








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