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Gospel for Friday, December 08: Luke 1: 26-38

Immaculate Conception B. V. Mary

26In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee, called Nazareth, 27to a virgin, betrothed to a man of the house of David, named Joseph. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28When he came to her, he said, “Rejoice, full of grace: the Lord is with you.” 29At these words she was greatly troubled and wondered what the meaning of such a greeting was. 30The angel said to her, “Fear not, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive a son and give birth to him and call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.” 34Then Mary said to the angel, “How shall this come to pass, for I know no man?” 35The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with his shadow. Therefore the one to be born will be holy and will be called the Son of God. 36And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month for her, who was said to be barren: 37nothing is impossible to God.” 38Then Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: let it be to me according to thy word.” And the angel departed from her”.

Lk 1: 26-38

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it). Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

THE ANNUNCIATION TO MARY (1:26-38)

Luke presents Mary in an inaugural scene that has the precise task of characterizing the role of the mother: we usually speak of the annunciation narrative, but, according to the literary genre proper to the passage, it would be better to call this text “Mary’s vocation” (Lk 1:26-38). It is, in fact, a vocation narrative, very similar to the one in which the call of Gideon is narrated (Jdg 6:11-24): God, through one of his messengers, asks for cooperation from a human person in the accomplishment of a great undertaking.

Let us now analyze the text of the announcement to Mary.

v. 28: “Rejoice, transformed by grace: the Lord is with you!”

Rejoice

Mary must “rejoice” (“kàire”) because she is the embodiment of ancient Israel, which must burst with joy because the Messiah has come: better than the Latin “Ave” is the “Gaude” translation of the Greek fathers. “In fact, Mary is greeted by Gabriel with the words of joy (1:28) with which the prophets Zechariah (2:14-17; 9:9-10), Zephaniah (3:14-20) and Joel (2:21-27) had invited to hope the ‘daughter of Zion,’ that is, the remnant of Israel (Is 10:20) who, having returned from exile, would rebuild the ‘house of Jacob,’ of which Jesus will be king (Lk 1:33)” (M. Masini).

Graced

Beloved

Mary is the “kecharitòmene,” the “graced one,” made lovable (not “full of grace,” that would have been “plerès charitòs,” as in Acts 6:8 referring to Stephen). She is the favored by love, the Israel chosen by mercy (Hos 11:1-4). It is the elect made beautiful by grace (Ez 16:8-14). It is Israel made the bridegroom of God (Hos 2:21-28; CoC).

Elect

In the language of the Bible, “grace” means a special gift, which according to the New Testament has its source in the triune life of God himself, of God who is love (1 Jn. 4:8). The fruit of this love is election-the one mentioned in the Epistle to the Ephesians (Eph 1:2-23)-by God: “Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heaven, in Christ. In him he chose us before the creation of the world, to be holy and spotless in his sight in charity, predestining us to be his adopted sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph 1:3-10).

New Abraham

Mary’s faith can be compared to that of Abraham, called by the Apostle “our father in faith” (Rom. 4:12). “Like Abraham, Mary finds grace with God, she begets a son in a miraculous way, she is blessed for her faith, in her person the promises made to Abraham for the people of Israel are fulfilled” (A. Serra). “From this moment Abraham expressly becomes the father of all believers and Mary, as Jn. 19:25-27 will expressly say, becomes their mother” (G. Bruni).

Beautiful

If Eve had disobeyed God, Mary contrasts her with her “yes” (Lk 1:38), and with her invitation to “do what he will tell you” (Jn 2:5), like the obedient Israel at Sinai. At Sinai, in fact, there is a new creation, and Israel, on the sixth day of the Theophany, is made manducate of the tree (Mount Sinai), which produces the holy Words of the Torah, and responds, “What the Lord has said, we will do” (Ex 19:8; cf. 24:3, 7), in obedience contrasting Eve’s sin. And the people, who according to the Rabbis were of the physically handicapped, oppressed by slavery, become the beautiful and unblemished bride of the Song of Songs (Ex 15:26). And Judaism will read the Song of Songs as the love poem of the Bridegroom-God who kisses in the garden his bride giving him the Torah on Sinai: “He kisses me with the kisses of his mouth” (Chr 1:2).

Mary is also the new Eve, the first of Israel’s “mothers,” who in rabbinic tradition was beautiful. The rabbis, paraphrasing Gen 2:22, see in God the paraninfo who adorns her with splendor to present her to Adam. Such beauty, lost to sin, is reflected in Sarah the beautiful, in Abisag the Sunamite of David (1 Kings 1:4), in the mother of the Maccabees, but especially in faithful Israel who in the garden of Sinai welcome the Torah. Mary, Justin (c. +165) will say, is the new Eve, who by her “yes” is made beautiful. At the foot of the new tree of life, the Cross, she will therefore be constituted the “mother” of the disciples (Jn. 19:25-27), and will be able, like Eve, to exclaim, “I have purchased a man from the Lord” (Gen. 4:1).

But she is also a figure of the Church, which is born of obedience, is made beautiful by the Spirit, and becomes the bride of Christ.

“The Lord is with you.”

This is a term peculiar to vocation narratives. Mary is the model of the believer, called to be with the Lord.

v. 29: “At these words she was troubled and wondered what the meaning of such a greeting was.”

Mary is troubled, reflecting, questioning: she enters into crisis. Hers is mature Faith that comes from listening to a Word that is a sign of contradiction, that is always called to go out, to conversion, to exodus.

v. 34: “Then Mary said to the angel, “How is this possible? I know no man.”

Mary’s objection represents a normal element in the biblical pattern of annunciations. Is it therefore a simple editorial passage or a real difficulty advanced by Mary? Opinions are divided.

1. According to numerous exegetes, especially Catholics, Mary intended to remain a virgin, despite her betrothal to Joseph. But the idea of a “vow of virginity” is certainly far removed from the Jewish mentality, which saw procreation as the only way to perpetuate and fit into the messianic expectation (the only exception, the Essenes of Qumram…), it only made its way with Origen (185-254) and then especially with Augustine (354-430).

2. Other exegetes claim that it can only be inferred from the Lucan text that Mary intended to enter into a normal marriage with Joseph, open to offspring. The sense of the objection concerns her situation as a betrothed, when marital relations were considered improper, not, however, illegitimate, because betrothal had the same legal value as marriage.

3. Other exegetes reject the previous explanations because they start from psychological or historicizing assumptions. With the artifice of dialogue, the evangelist does not intend to recall Mary’s psychological attitude, but rather Jesus’ Davidic ancestry and divine filiation.

In any case, it must be “emphasized that the text…invites us to go beyond the dispute about whether or not Mary was a physiological virgin. Curiosity must give way to theology, marginal questions to the heart of an announcement increasingly made explicit by the prayerful reflection of the early Church: from a virgin earth God created Adam through his breath, from undefiled flesh God created Jesus, the new Adam, through his Spirit” (G. Bruni). Virginity type of the call to free ourselves from the contamination given by marriage to idols. Virginity of the heart to which all, married and single, are called and from which, ultimately, physical virginity draws meaning. But also virginity that underscores the extraordinary nature of God’s plan, which gives the Messiah beyond all human merit or ability.

v. 35a: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, upon you will spread his cloud the power of the Most High.”

“Holy Spirit” is not preceded by the article and refers to a divine attribute, to its power, but there is an allusion to the spirit of God (“mah ‘Elohim”) that “hovered over the waters” of the primordial chaos for the creation of the cosmos (Gen 1:2).

In Mary the Presence-Shekinah of God is embodied. There is assonance between the Greek verb “episkiàzein” (= to overshadow) and the Hebrew “shakàn”: from this also derives the rabbinic term Shekinàh, used in place of God’s name; it can indicate the Most High, the Abode, the Holy Place. The same verb recurs in the transfiguration, in reference to the cloud, indicating God’s presence, that envelops the three disciples (“epeskìasen” = covered, in Lk 9:34). At the moment of the annunciation, God truly takes possession of Mary’s womb, which becomes his living dwelling place, as the daughter of Zion, that is, representative of the new chosen people.

v. 35b: “The one to be born will therefore (“dià kai”) be holy and called the Son of God.”

Mary’s motherhood itself already constitutes an event of salvation and deification, and is not merely instrumental to the birth of the Son. “He who will be born will therefore be (dià kai) holy and called the Son of God”: Mary is not only an empty temple in which the Presence of God arrives, but “Mary was predestined from all eternity to be the dwelling place of the Spirit who through her and in her would begin the renewed creation” (L. Boff).

v. 38: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.”

Mary then is the “slave (dùle) (of IHWH” (Lk 1:38: not the “handmaid”), that is, the mother of the Slave (ebed) of IHWH pierced for our sins (Is 53:5): a sword will pierce her soul too (Lk 2:35). As the Fathers will say, she is “the Lamb who gives birth to the Lamb” (Lk 2:35).

“Let it come to pass of me what you have said.”

Not only that, Mary expresses the enthusiasm and joy of this readiness. The Greek verb translated “come to pass” (“gnoito”) is an octative, that is, a form that expresses a desire and a joy: Mary does not accept with resignation, but welcomes with enthusiasm and says in essence, “I am so glad that what you have said comes to pass, I desire nothing more!” Here is the model of the believer and disciple.

Mary makes explicit the fundamental option “according to your word,” “katà to rèma tu,” the model of the believer who lives by the Word of God (Lk. 2:29).

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at migliettacarlo@gmail.com.

Source

Spazio Spadoni

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