Saturday, 5 July 2014

Magnificat/3 - St Luke 1:51-55 - Magnificat Pt 3

Today, the second half of the Magnificat:

Fecit potentiam in brachio suo: dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede,et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis:et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israël puerum suum, recordatus misericordiæ suæ:
sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semini ejus in sæcula.

Knox translation:

51 he has done valiantly with the strength of his arm, driving the proud astray in the conceit of their hearts; 
52 he has put down the mighty from their seat, and exalted the lowly; 
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty-handed. 
54 He has protected his servant Israel, keeping his merciful design in remembrance, 
55 according to the promise which he made to our forefathers, Abraham and his posterity for evermore.


Catena Aurea:

51. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

THEOPHYL; In describing the state of mankind, she shows what the proud deserve, and what the humble; saying, He has shown strength with his arm, &c. i.e. with the very Son of God. For as your arm is that whereby you work, so the arm of God is said to be His word by whom He made the world

ORIGEN; But to those that fear Him, He has done mighty things with His arm; though you come weak to God if you have feared Him you shall obtain the promised strength.

THEOPHYL. For in His arm, that is, His incarnate Son, He has shown strength, seeing that nature was vanquished, a virgin bringing forth, and God becoming man.

GREEK EX. Or she says, Has shown, for will show strength; not as long ago by the hand of Moses against the Egyptians, nor as by the Angel, (when he slew many thousand of the rebel Assyrians,) nor by any other instrument save His own power, He openly triumphed, overcoming spiritual enemies. Hence it follows, he has scattered, &c. that is to say, every heart that was puffed up and not obedient to His coming He has laid bare, and exposed the wickedness of their proud thoughts.

CYRIL OF JERUS. But these words may be more appropriately taken to refer to the hostile ranks of the evil spirits. For they were raging on the earth, when our Lord's coming put them to flight, and restored those whom they had bound, to His obedience.

THEOPHYL. This might also be understood of the Jews whom He scattered into all lands as they are now scattered.

De Lapide:

The Virgin has been praising the mercy of God towards those who fear Him, and now she goes on to praise His severity and justice towards those who despise Him.

With His arm. The strength and power of God are anthropomorphically expressed by the hand, the finger, the right hand, but most of all by the arm, for the strength of man puts itself forth in his arms. The meaning therefore is, God has in every age wrought many things by His mighty arm, as in the case of Pharaoh by Moses, &c. But much more has God shown His power by causing Christ to become incarnate in me, by Whom He will mightily overthrow Lucifer, hell, death and sin. Whence Bede and Theophylact understand by His arm here, mystically, the Son of God incarnate in the Virgin. For He is the power of God, 1 Cor i. 24. There is an allusion to Isa. liii. i, To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

He hath scattered the proud; as He scattered and overthrew Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, &c.
In the imagination of their heart. Vulgate, mente cordis sui. Some refer these words to the heart of God, so that the meaning will be, God by His own heart, i.e. His will and decree, scattered the proud: so S. Augustine explains it. “In the imagination (or purpose) of His heart,” he says, “that is, in His deep counsel He scattered them. It was deep counsel for God to become man for me, and for the innocent to suffer in order that the guilty might be redeemed.” The Carthusian (Denis) follows this explanation, “In the purpose, i.e. in the intention and will of His heart, i.e. of His understanding, by which He discerns, judges, and orders all things.” But from the Greek it is clear that the word sui is not to be referred to the heart of God, but to the heart of the proud; for the Greek is αυ̉τω̃ν, of them. Whence Euthymius says, God scattered those who were proud in their heart.

Others refer the word sui, of them, to the word dispersit, scattered, so that the meaning is, God hath scattered the proud by means of the purpose (Greek, διανοία) of their heart, because He turns back their proud machinations to their own destruction, so that He disperses them, according to that saying Job v. 13, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness; as He did to Pharaoh when he followed the Hebrews through the Red Sea, by drowning him with all his followers in the same sea; and to the brethren of Joseph who sold him that they might destroy him, but God by this very thing exalted Joseph and constrained his brethren to bow down to him.

 52. He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.


THEOPHYL; The words, He has showed strength with his arm, and those which went before, And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation, must be joined to this verse by a comma only. For truly through all generations of the world, by a merciful and just administration of Divine power, the proud do not cease to fall, and the humble to be exalted. As it is said, He has put down the mighty from their seat, he has exalted the humble and meek.

CYRIL; The mighty in knowledge were the evil spirits, the Devil, the wise ones of the Gentiles, the Scribes and Pharisees; yet these He has put down, and raised up those who humbled themselves under the mighty hand of God; giving them the power of treading upon serpents and scorpions and every power of the enemy. The Jews were also at one time puffed up with power, but unbelief slew them, and the mean and lowly of the Gentiles have through faith climbed up to the highest summit.

GREEK EX. For our understanding is acknowledge d to be the judgment-seat of God, but after the transgression, the powers of evil took their seat in the heart of the first man as on their own throne. For this reason then the Lord came and cast out the evil spirits from the seat of our will, and raised up those who were vanquished by devils, purging their consciences, and making their hearts his own dwelling place.

De Lapide: 

As He put down the proud Saul from his royal throne by putting the humble David in his place; so He put the humble Mordecai in the place of the proud Haman, and Esther in the place of Vashti. God has done, and does, and will do the same in every age. Wherefore these past tenses. He hath scattered, put down, exalted, are to be taken in the widest sense, as signifying any time, future, present, or past, according to the Hebrew idiom. He hath put down therefore signifies He does and will put down. The Virgin alludes to the words of David, Psalm cxiii. 7, He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, &c.; and of Hannah, 1 Sam. ii. 7, The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich, &c.

Moreover, as often at other times, so at the time of the Nativity of Christ God put down the mighty from their seat almost throughout the whole world, which, after Julius Cæsar, Pompey, Lepidus, Antony, and other kings, tyrants, and princes had been removed, He had put in subjection to Augustus alone, who was a type of Christ, as Cyrus had been, Isa. xlv. 1. Whence, when Christ was born, he refused the title of Lord which was offered to him. Then also God put down from their seat Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, who were contending with each other for the government over Judæa. Herod also, the infanticide, was deprived of his life and kingdom; and shortly afterwards his whole royal progeny perished; as also did that of Augustus Caesar, that it might be declared that Christ was now born, and that every kingdom was due to him and was prepared for Him, as Daniel foretold, c. vii. 14.

 53. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent empty away.


GLOSS. Because human prosperity seems to consist chiefly in the honors of the mighty and the abundance of their riches, after speaking of the casting down of the mighty, and the exalting of the humble, he goes on to tell of the impoverishing of the rich and the filling of the poor, He has filled the hungry, &c.

BASIL; These words regulate our conduct even with respect to sensible things, teaching the uncertainty of all worldly possessions, which are as short lived as the wave which is dashed about to and fro by the violence of the wind. But spiritually all mankind suffered hunger except the Jews; for they possessed the treasures of legal tradition and the teachings of the holy prophets. But because they did not rest humbly on the Incarnate Word they were sent away empty, carrying nothing with them neither faith nor knowledge, and were bereft of the hope of good things, being shut out both of the earthly Jerusalem and the life to come. But those of the Gentiles, who were roughs low by hunger and thirst, because they clung to the Lord, were filled with spiritual goods.

GLOSS. They also who desire eternal life with their whole soul, as it were hungering after it, shall be filled when Christ shall appear in glory; but they who rejoice in earthly things, shall at the end be sent away emptied of all happiness.

De L:

So He fed the-Hebrews with manna from heaven for forty years in the wilderness. So He fed Elias when he was hungry by an angel, and Daniel in the den of lions by Habakkuk, and Paul, the first hermit, by a raven. So also He fed the Blessed Virgin, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, with the Word Incarnate, and He feeds all the faithful with the same in the Holy Eucharist, and will feed them still more in heaven. By the hungry the poor are intended, since the Virgin opposes the rich to them.

54. He has holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

De L:

God hath taken by the hand, raised up, helped and restored His people Israel, whom He loved and kept as a son or servant. He did this formerly by Moses, Joshua, David, &c.; and now much more has He done it, by sending to Israel the Messiah that had been promised. For at that time, the commonwealth and Church of Israel had fallen into ruins, since the sceptre had been taken away from them, and transferred to Herod and the Romans; and the priests, intent on their own gain, were negligent of the welfare of the people; wherefore the people were grievously afflicted with various miseries of mind and body. God therefore at a seasonable time sent Christ that He might deliver out of them all His own Israel, that is, all the faithful who were converted to Him, both from among the Jews and Gentiles; whence S. Augustine says, “He helped Israel; not the Israel which He found; but He helped Israel that He might make him; as a physician helps a sick man, that He might heal the weak, and redeem the captive, that He might justify the impious, and save the just.” For Israel in Hebrew is the same as the man who sees God, or rather, one who has power with God, Gen. xxxii. 28. This is the third part of this song in which the Blessed Virgin passes from the common blessings in old times bestowed by God upon Israel, to the peculiar one of the Messiah already incarnate in herself, which was the greatest and most excellent of all.

In remembrance, &c. The cause why God sent Christ was His compassion on Israel and the whole human race, doomed to death and hell on account of their sins. Whence S. Leo says, “The cause of our restoration is none else than the compassion of God.” God is said to have remembered, because He seemed to have left men in their miseries for four thousand years and to have forgotten His promise made to the Fathers; now as it were having remembered it, He fulfilled it in Christ; for this compassion is none other than the salvation brought by Christ.

55. As he spoke to our fathers, Abraham, and to his seed for ever.


GLOSS. After a general mention of the Divine mercy and holiness, the Virgin changes the subject to the strange and marvelous dispensation of the new incarnation, saying, He has holpen his servant Israel, &c. as a physician relieves the sick, becoming visible among men, that He might make Israel (i.e. him who sees God) His servant.

THEOPHYL; That is, obedient and humble; for he who disdains to be made humble, cannot be saved.

BASIL; For by Israel she means not Israel after the flesh, whom their own title made noble, but the spiritual Israel, which retained the name of faith, straining their eyes to see God by faith.

THEOPHYL. It might also be applied to Israel after the flesh, seeing that out of that body multitudes believed. But this he did remembering His mercy, for He has fulfilled what he promised to Abraham, saying, For in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. This promise then the mother of God called to mind, saying, As he spoke to out father Abraham; for it was said to Abraham, I will place my covenant, that I shall be your God, and the God of your seed after you.

THEOPHYL; But by seed he means not so much those who are begotten in the flesh, as those who have followed the steps of Abraham's faith, to whom the Savior's coming was promised for evermore.

GLOSS. For this promise of heritage shall not be narrowed by any limits, but to the very end of time there shall never lack believers, the glory of whose happiness shall be everlasting.

De L:

The Virgin declares that this mercy, viz. the salvation brought by Christ, had been promised by God from ancient times to the fathers, Adam, Abraham, &c.; so that the Incarnation of Christ was not a fortuitous event, but from eternity had been provided and decreed by God for the salvation of Israel and of the whole world, and had been promised in time to all the Patriarchs from the beginning of the world; who themselves eagerly desired the same, and though they besought God for it with ardent longings, yet they did not obtain it, because God had decreed to reserve this great gift for this time and age.

To Abraham and his seed. These words are to be referred to the words in remembrance of His mercy, not to the words as He spake to our fathers, which are to be enclosed in a parenthesis. God by making Christ to be incarnate remembered His mercy formerly promised by Him to Abraham and his seed, that is, to the Israelites his descendants. For Christ was especially promised to them, but inasmuch as they rejected Him, God turned His mercy aside from them to the Gentiles who gladly received Him. He remembered Abraham both because he was the first Patriarch of Israel, and also because he excelled in faith and was therefore called by God the father of the faithful, and received the promise concerning Christ Who should be born of his seed.

Wherefore this seed, i.e. the children and posterity of Abraham, is not to be understood carnally of the Jews descended from him according to the flesh, but spiritually of the faithful believers in Christ both Jews and Gentiles, for these follow the example of the faith of Abraham the father of the faithful.
For ever. This word may be referred either to the word seed, so that the meaning is, the seed of Abraham will last for ever, or to the word mercy. God hath remembered His mercy, that is the salvation to be given through Christ; and it was His will that it should endure not for a hundred or a thousand years only, but for all eternity. Either sense comes to the same.

Friday, 4 July 2014

St Luke 1: 46-50 - Magnificat Pt 2

Today, I want to focus in on the first half of the Magnificat, with the help of the anthology of the  Fathers' commentaries from the Catena Aurea, and de Lapide.

46 Et ait Maria:

Magnificat anima mea Dominum: 
et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillæ suæ:ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes,
quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est:et sanctum nomen ejus,
et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.

And the Knox translation:

46 And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord; 
47 my spirit has found joy in God, who is my Saviour, 
48 because he has looked graciously upon the lowliness of his handmaid. Behold, from this day forward all generations will count me blessed; 
49 because he who is mighty, he whose name is holy, has wrought for me his wonders. 
50 He has mercy upon those who fear him, from generation to generation; 


46. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord.

Catena Aurea:

AMBROSE; As evil came into the world by a woman, so also is good introduced by women; and so it seems not without meaning, that both Elisabeth prophesies before John, and Mary before the birth of the Lord. But it follows, that as Mary was the greater person, so she uttered the fuller prophecy. 

BASIL; For the Virgin, with lofty thoughts and deep penetration, contemplates the boundless mystery, the further she advances, magnifying God; And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord. 

GREEK EX. As if she said, Marvelous things has the Lord declared that He will accomplish in my body, but neither shall my soul be unfruitful before God. It becomes me to offer Him the fruit also of my will, for inasmuch as I am obedient to a mighty miracle, am I bound to glorify Him who performs His mighty works in me. 

ORIGEN; Now if the Lord could neither receive increase or decrease, what is this that Mary speaks of, My soul doth magnify the Lord? But if I consider that the Lord our Savior is the image of the invisible God, and that the soul is created according to His image, so as to be an image of an image, then I shall see plainly, that as after the manner of those who are accustomed to paint images, each one of us forming his soul after the image of Christ, makes it great or little, base or noble, after the likeness of the original so when I have made my soul great in thought, word, and deed, the image of God is made great, and the Lord Himself whose image it is, is magnified in my soul.

de Lapide:

Ver. 46.—And Mary said, My soul, &c. Fitly does Mary make answer to the praises of herself celebrated by Elizabeth, by referring them to their fountain, i.e. to God. S. Bernard (Serm. in Apoc. 12) says, “Truly this is a song of high praise, but also of devout humility which suffers her not to retain anything for herself, but gives all back rather to Him Whose blessings bestowed upon herself she was celebrating. Thou, she says, magnifiest the Mother of the Lord, but my soul doth magnify the Lord. Thou declarest that thy son leaped for joy at my voice, but my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour. He rejoices as the friend of the bridegroom at the voice of the bridegroom. Thou sayest she is blessed which believed, but the cause of faith and blessedness is the regard of the Celestial Goodness, so that on this account the rather all generations will call me Blessed, because God hath regarded the low estate of his handmaid.”  S. Bernard then shows that the Blessed Virgin, though she was most humble, yet in the faith of the promise made by the angel she was lifted high in soul, so that she doubted not that she was elected to so great a mystery, but believed that she would soon be the true Mother of God and man; for the grace of God so works in His elect, “that neither does humility make them feeble spirited, nor does exaltation of soul make them proud.” God magnifies man in one way, and man magnifies God in another. God magnifies a man when He heaps upon him riches and honours, graces and gifts, and raises him above others; but man cannot magnify God in this way, for he cannot add anything to Him either great or small. He is said therefore to magnify God when he proclaims His greatness, i.e. His majesty, almighty power, holiness, wisdom, &c., The meaning of the Blessed Virgin’s words therefore is, Thou, 0 Elizabeth, magnifiest me in honouring me with the magnificent title of Mother of God, but I magnify God Who has made me great, in giving me so great a Son, Who is God Himself, and has thought fit to bring to pass in me the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Word.

Not only my tongue, nor my hand only, but my soul itself with all its power magnifies God. From the inmost recesses of my soul, with all the powers of my mind, I praise and glorify God; I employ and entirely devote all the strength of my soul in His praise; so that my understanding contemplates Him alone, my will loves and celebrates no being but Him, my memory dwells upon nothing but Him, my mouth speaks of and celebrates nothing but Him, my hand performs only those things which tend to His service, my feet move forwards only to those things which tend to His glory.

Symbolically, Toletus says, The Blessed Virgin rightly says my souls. Because she alone had her soul in her own power, and was mistress over it, because she possessed it in patience, having dominion over all its affections and passions. But we do not possess our souls, because we are ourselves possessed by anger, pride, concupiscence or some other like passion. 2. Because she had wholly delivered up her soul to her Son; and those things which belonged to her Son were hers also. Whence her soul having been delivered up to her Son returned entirely to her own power, and she truly calls it my soul. 3. On account of her loving affection for it; for the more any one loves God, the more he loves his own soul. Since, therefore, the Blessed Virgin loved God chiefly above all men, and had never committed any sin, she loved her own soul very greatly. And that which we love, on account of our love for it we call our own. She therefore who so loved her own soul, truly called it her own.

47. And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

BASIL; The first-fruit of the Spirit is peace and joy. Because then the holy Virgin had drunk in all the graces of the Spirit, she rightly adds, And my spirit has leaped for joy. She means the same thing, soul and spirit. But the frequent mention of leaping for joy in the Scriptures implies a certain bright and cheerful state of mind in those who are worthy. Hence the Virgin exults in the Lord with an unspeakable springing (and bounding) of the heart for joy, and in the breaking forth into utterance of a noble affection It follows, in God my Savior. 

THEOPHYL; Because the spirit of the Virgin rejoices in the eternal Godhead of the same Jesus (i.e. the Savior,) whose flesh is formed in the womb by a temporal conception. 

AMBROSE; The soul of Mary therefore magnifies the Lord, and her spirit rejoiced in God, because with soul and spirit devoted to the Father and the Son, she worships with a pious affection the one God from whom are all things. But let every one have the spirit of Mary, so that he may rejoice in the Lord. If according to the flesh there is one mother of Christ, yet, according to faith, Christ is the fruit of all. For every soul receives the word of God if only he be unspotted and free from sin, and preserves it with unsullied purity. 

THEOPHYL. But he magnifies God who worthily follows Christ, and now that he is called Christian, lessens not the glory of Christ by acting unworthily, but does great and heavenly things; and then the Spirit (that is, the anointing of the Spirit) shall rejoice, (i.e. make him to prosper,) and shall not be withdrawn, so to say, and put to death. 

BASIL; But if at any time light shall have crept into his heart, and loving God and despising bodily things he shall have gained the perfect standing of the just, without any difficulty shall he obtain joy in the Lord. 

ORIGEN; But the soul first magnifies the Lord, that it may afterwards rejoice in God; for unless we have first believed, we can not rejoice.

De Lapide:

And my spirit hath rejoiced. Exultavit. The Blessed Virgin, admiring the divine power, holiness, justice, benignity of the Spirit of God incarnate in her, exults and leaps and sings for joy. Euthymius (in Ps. 9) says, “Exultation is, as it were, an intensified joy, which causes the heart to leap up vehemently with excess of joy, and to be raised on high.” Cajetan also says, “Exultation is an overflowing joy, which breaks forth, modestly however and seriously, in the external signs of gesticulation, singing and jubilation.”

There is an allusion here to Isaiah lxi. 10, I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God; and still more to the words of Anna, 1 Sam. ii. I., My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, &c., for as Anna, who was barren, rejoiced in conceiving Samuel by the miraculous help of God, so the Blessed Virgin rejoiced in conceiving Emmanuel (of whom Samuel was a type) by the power of the Holy Spirit.
S. Augustine, writing on the Magnificat, shows that the Virgin here does two things: first, she praises the goodness and mercy of God, as in the preceding verse she had praised His power and majesty; secondly, she pours forth the expression of the sweetness and delight which she had received in the conception of her Son; and in this he says that the Mother of God imitated the angels, who in heaven perform these two things, viz., meditate on the incomprehensible majesty of God, and enjoy His ineffable goodness and sweetness; and they so admire them as to rejoice in and love them. His words are, “Thou hast seen His majesty, thou hast tasted His sweetness; therefore that which thou hast received inwardly, thou hast poured forth abroad, and thou hast rejoiced in His justice. My spirit hath rejoiced; the soul magnifies; the spirit rejoices. In God my Saviour: the word God, denotes His power; the word Saviour (or salvation) denotes His mercy. For these are two things Which the spirits of angels and saints in that fountain of good drink in by eternal contemplation; viz., the incomprehensible Majesty of God, and His ineffable goodness; the one of which produces a sacred fear, and the other love; they venerate God for His majesty; they love Him for His goodness; so that love being joined with reverential, fear may not be lost, and fear being joined with love may not have torment.”

Lastly, as in the conception of the Word the very highest of blessings was bestowed upon the Virgin, so she experienced the very highest exaltation on account of it, so that her spirit seemed to leap forth for joy from her body, and to hasten forth towards God; and perhaps it would have done so, had not God by His power kept it in her body. For when she died several years after, she died not of sickness, but of love, joy, and the desire of seeing her Son, as Suarez and other theologians think. Moreover this exaltation, Albertus says, was not transient, but remained as a habit through the whole of her life. He adds, that on account of her possessing this continual exultation in God, she was above all entirely dead to the world and to this mortal life, so that her life was always hid with Christ in God, and being present in the angelic court she dwelt in the sanctuary of God, and she could say in a more excellent manner than Paul or any other creature, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Gal. vi.

My Spirit. That is, my soul, as Euthymius and others say; as if my Spirit hath rejoiced, &c., were the same as my soul doth magnify, &c. But the opinion of Toletus and others is better, who think that the spirit is more than the soul; wherefore by the soul they understand the intellect, and by the spirit the will. More simply, by the soul you may understand the lower part of the soul, which regards natural objects; by the spirit the superior part, which beholds spiritual and divine things. The soul, therefore, is natural and contemplates natural things; the spirit is supernatural and contemplates heavenly things. The spirit, therefore, signifies—1. the mind; 2. the vehement and fervent impulse of the mind towards joy; 3. that this impulse is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the Spirit, as being the superior, draws the soul and body along with it, so that they likewise may exult with joy, according to the saying in Psalm 84, “My heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.”

In God my Saviour. Vulgate, salutari meo; Greek, σωτη̃ζί μου. The Syriac renders the words in God my lifegiver (vivificatore meo). Who will be-stow life, i.e. liberty, grace, and glory on me and all the faithful.

She says my Saviour—1. Because Jesus is my Son. 2. Because He is also my Saviour, both because He has preserved, me above others from all sin, and filled me with all grace, and because He has made me the mediatrix of salvation for all men, so that I am as it were the cause and the mother of salvation to all who are to be saved.

S. John of Damascus, when the hand with which he had written the defence of the worship of sacred images had been cut off by Leo the Isaurian, and had been miraculously restored by the Blessed Virgin, sang the words, “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour, and in His Mother, for He that is mighty hath done to me great things.”

48. For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

GREEK EX. She gives the reason why it becomes her to magnify God and to rejoice in Him, saying, For he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden; as if she said, "He Himself foresaw, therefore I did not look for Him." I was content with things lowly, but now am I chosen to counsels unspeakable, and raised up from the earth to the stars. 

AUG. O true lowliness, which has borne God to men, has given life to mortals, made new heavens and a pure earth, opened the gates of Paradise, and set free the souls of men. The lowliness of Mary was made the heavenly ladder, by which God descended upon earth. For whet does regarded mean but "approved;" For many seem in my sight to be lowly, but their lowliness is not regarded by the Lord. For if they were truly lowly, their spirit would rejoice not in the world, but in God. 

ORIGEN; But why was she lowly and cast down, who carried in her womb the Son of God? Consider that lowliness which in the Scriptures is particularly praised as one of the virtues, so called by the philosophers "modestia." And we also may paraphrase it, that state of mind in which a man instead of being puffed up, casts himself down. 

THEOPHYL, But she, whose humility is regarded, is rightly called blessed by all; as it follows, For, behold, from henceforth all shall call me blessed. ATHAN. For if as the Prophet says, Blessed are they who have seed in Sion, and kinsfolk in Jerusalem, how great should be the celebration of the divine and ever holy Virgin Mary, who was made according to the flesh, the Mother of the Word? 

GREEK EX. She does not call herself blessed from vain glory, for what room is there for pride in her who named herself the handmaid of the Lord? But, touched by the Holy Spirit, she foretold those things which were to come. 

THEOPHYL, For it was fitting, that as by the pride of our first parent death came into the world, so by the lowliness of Mary should be opened the entrance into life. 

THEOPHYL. And therefore she says, all generations, not only Elisabeth, but also every nation that believed.

De Lapide:

...Lowlines, or low estate. Vulgate, humilitatem; Greek, ταπείνωσιν. Humility here properly means lowliness of estate, not the virtue of humility as opposed to pride, for this is called ταπεινοφζοσύνη; for humility alone among virtues is ignorant of itself; and he who boasts of his humility is proud, not humble.

Secondly, however, by humility may be understood the virtue itself of humility; for on account of this God had regard to the Blessed Virgin, and chose her for His mother; for a humble person recognises his virtues as being the gifts of God; wherefore among them he sees also his own humility, but he ascribes it not to his own strength, but to the grace which he had received from God.

As, therefore, the Blessed Virgin here recognises her election to be the Mother of God (which was a far greater thing), so likewise she recognises that she was fittingly adorned for so great a dignity by her humility, virginity, and other virtues which had been imparted to her by God. For a humble person recognises his own, low estate, his misery, his poverty, yea, even his own nothingness, and ascribes all that he is and has to God, Whose he is, and says with the Psalmist, Not unto us, 0 Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give the glory...

Blessed. Gerson (super. Magnificat) says, “Thou art worthy of our praises, 0 Holy Virgin, thrice and four times blessed. Blessed—1. because thou didst believe.  2. Because thou art full of grace, according to the salutation of Gabriel.  3. Because Blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  4. Because He, that is mighty hath done to thee great things. 5.  Because thou art the Mother of the Lord.  6. Because thou art fruitful and yet retainest the honour of virginity.  7. Because thou seemest to have none like thee, among those that were before thee, or among those that come after.”...

49. For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name.

THEOPHYL. The Virgin shows that not for her own virtue is she to be pronounced blessed, but she assigns the cause saying, For he that is mighty has magnified me. 

AUG. What great things has He done to you; I believe that a creature you gave birth to the Creator, servant you brought forth the Lord, that through you God redeemed the world, through you He restored it to life. 

TITUS BOS. But where are the great things, if they be not that I still a virgin conceive (by the will of God) overcoming nature. I have been accounted worthy, without being joined to a husband, to be made a mother, not a mother of any one, but of the only-begotten Savior.

THEOPHYL; But this has reference to the beginning of the hymn, where it is said, My soul doth magnify the Lord. For that soul can alone magnify the Lord with due praise, for whom he deigns to do mighty things. 

TITUS BOS; But she says, that is mighty, that if men should disbelieve the work of her conception, namely, that while yet a virgin, she conceived, she might throw back the miracles upon the power of the Worker. Nor because the only-begotten Son has come to a woman is He thereby defiled, for holy is his name.

 BASIL. But holy is the name of God called, not because in its letters it contains any significant power, but because in whatever way we look at God we distinguish his purity and holiness. 

THEOPHYL; For in the height of His marvelous power He is far beyond every creature, and is widely removed from all the works of His hands. This is better understood in the Greek tongue, in which the very word which means holy, signifies as it were to be "apart from the earth."

De Lapide:

...Cardinal Hugo mentions twelve great things belonging to the Virgin:—1. Sanctification in the womb of her mother.  2. The salutation of the angel.  3.The fulness of grace.  4.The conception of her Son.  5. Fruitful virginity.  6.Virgin fruitfulness.  7.Her honoured humility.  8. Her ready obedience.  9. The devotion of her faith.  10. Her prudent modesty.  11. Her modest prudence.  12. The dominion over heaven.  S. Thomas (part. 1, qu. 25, art. 6) teaches that it is possible for God to do better works than He has done with the exception of three: the Incarnation of the Word; the maternity of God; and the beatitude of man which consists in the vision of God; for God can do nothing better or greater than these, because nothing can be greater or better than God Himself. The Blessed Virgin is called by Hesychius, Bishop of Jerusalem (hom. 2 de S. Maria), “The entire complement of the Trinity, because both the Holy Ghost came to her, and sojourned with her, and the Father overshadowed her, and the Son, borne in her womb, dwelt within her.”

He that is mighty. Vulgate, potens; Greek, ό δυνατός. This is one of the ten names of God, for the Septuagint used to render the Hebrew word גבר (gibbor), i.e. mighty, strong, whence is derived Gabriel, i.e. the strength of God. The Blessed Virgin, says Titus, adds this—first, that no one may disbelieve this mystery. Let no one wonder if I a virgin have conceived, for He Who hath wrought this work is the Mighty God. Secondly, that she may show that what the angel had promised (verse 35) is fulfilled in her, the power (Greek, δύναμις) of the Highest shall overshadow thee. She alludes to Isa. vii. 14 and ix. 6, His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God אל גבר (Elgibbor), i.e. mighty, strong as a giant; whence Gabriel announced His birth, whose name signifies the power and strength of God...

50. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

THEOPHYL; Turning from God's special gifts to His general dealings, she describes the condition of the whole hole human race, And his mercy is from generation to generation on them that fear him. As if she said, Not only for me has He that is mighty done great things, but in every nation he that fears God is accepted by Him. 

ORIGEN; For the mercy of God is not upon one generation, but extends to eternity from generation to generation. 

GREEK EX. According to the mercy which He has upon generations of generations, I conceive, and He Himself is united to a living body, out of mercy alone undertaking our salvation. Nor is His mercy shown indiscriminately, but upon those who are constrained by the fear of Him in every nation; as it is said, upon those who fear him, that is, upon those who being brought by repentance are turned to faith and renewal for the obstinate unbelievers have by their sin shut against themselves the gate of mercy. 

THEOPHYL. Or by this she means that they who fear shall obtain mercy, both in that generation, (that is, the present world,) and the generation which is to come, (i.e. the life everlasting.) For now they receive a hundred-fold, but hereafter far more.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

St Luke 1: 46-55 - Magnificat Pt 1: Overview

Today's section of St Luke 1 is the Magnificat, which is said everyday at Vespers.  Because it is said so frequently, I thought I'd linger over it for a couple of days and provide some material to stimulate a more in depth meditation on this wonderful canticle.  Today, an introduction and look at some of the Old Testament texts that Our Lady drew on.

But first the full text from St Luke:

46 Et ait Maria:
Magnificat anima mea Dominum: 
et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillæ suæ:ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes,
quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est:et sanctum nomen ejus,
et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo:dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede,et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis:et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israël puerum suum, recordatus misericordiæ suæ:
sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semini ejus in sæcula.

The Douay-Rheims translation:

[46] And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. 
[47] And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 
[48] Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 
[49] Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. 
[50] And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.
[51] He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart
[52] He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. 
[53] He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 
[54] He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: 
[55] As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.


De Lapide summarises the structure of the Magnificat as follows:

"There are three parts in this song. In the first (verse 46-50), the Blessed Virgin praises God for the peculiar blessings bestowed upon herself by God, especially for the conception of the Word. In the second (verse 50-54), she praises Him for the common blessings bestowed upon His whole people before the coming of Christ. In the third (verse 54 to the end), she returns to this greatest blessing of the Incarnation of the Word which had been promised to the fathers, and made known to herself
My soul."  

He also comments that:

Fitly does Mary make answer to the praises of herself celebrated by Elizabeth, by referring them to their fountain, i.e. to God. S. Bernard (Serm. in Apoc. 12) says:

“Truly this is a song of high praise, but also of devout humility which suffers her not to retain anything for herself, but gives all back rather to Him Whose blessings bestowed upon herself she was celebrating. Thou, she says, magnifiest the Mother of the Lord, but my soul doth magnify the Lord. Thou declarest that thy son leaped for joy at my voice, but my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour. He rejoices as the friend of the bridegroom at the voice of the bridegroom. Thou sayest she is blessed which believed, but the cause of faith and blessedness is the regard of the Celestial Goodness, so that on this account the rather all generations will call me Blessed, because God hath regarded the low estate of his handmaid.”  

S. Bernard then shows that the Blessed Virgin, though she was most humble, yet in the faith of the promise made by the angel she was lifted high in soul, so that she doubted not that she was elected to so great a mystery, but believed that she would soon be the true Mother of God and man; for the grace of God so works in His elect, “that neither does humility make them feeble spirited, nor does exaltation of soul make them proud.” 

God magnifies man in one way, and man magnifies God in another. God magnifies a man when He heaps upon him riches and honours, graces and gifts, and raises him above others; but man cannot magnify God in this way, for he cannot add anything to Him either great or small. He is said therefore to magnify God when he proclaims His greatness, i.e. His majesty, almighty power, holiness, wisdom, &c., The meaning of the Blessed Virgin’s words therefore is, Thou, 0 Elizabeth, magnifiest me in honouring me with the magnificent title of Mother of God, but I magnify God Who has made me great, in giving me so great a Son, Who is God Himself, and has thought fit to bring to pass in me the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Word.

The Incarnation of the Word was the greatest of all the works of God. 1. It was a work of the highest power, to unite heaven to earth, God to man; 2. of the highest goodness, by which God communicated Himself wholly to man; 3. of the highest wisdom, by which He effected this union in a Divine Person, so that the integrity of each nature, the human and the divine, was preserved to it.

With this, therefore, begins the song of the Blessed Virgin, which of all the songs of Holy Scripture, of Moses, Deborah, &c., is the most excellent, as being the most full of the Divine Spirit and exultation. The Church, accordingly, uses it daily in the Office of Vespers, in order that she may by it, in the highest manner, celebrate the glories and praises of God, and render the highest thanks to Him for the Incarnation of the Word and His other gifts, and that she may drink in the same affections of devotion, piety, love, and exultation that in uttering it the Blessed Virgin drank in from heaven.

Old Testament sources

One of the things most often lost today is the continuity between the Old and New Testaments.  Our Lady was steeped in the Old Testament: indeed icons of the Annunciation often depict her as reading Scripture when the angel appears.  And nowhere is this better illustrated than in the texts she drew on in that moment of inspiration, for she, like we, could draw on the rich texts of the Old Testament canticles and psalms, which foreshadowed what was to come, and give us words from God with which to express our reactions to the encounter with the Divine.

The most obvious text often pointed to as a source for the Magnificat is the Canticle of Hannah (Anna) recorded in I Samuel, so appropriate since Hannah was a type of Our Lady.  Here is a version that is translated from the Septuagint (the version Our Lady was most likely familiar with) by Brenton:

2:1 My heart is established in the Lord, my horn is exalted in my God; my mouth is enlarged over my enemies, I have rejoiced in thy salvation. 
2 For there is none holy as the Lord, and there is none righteous as our God; there is none holy besides thee. 
3 Boast not, and utter not high things; let not high-sounding words come out of your mouth, for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and God prepares his own designs. 
4 The bow of the mighty has waxed feeble, and the weak have girded themselves with strength. 
5 They that were full of bread are brought low; and the hungry have forsaken the land; for the barren has born seven, and she that abounded in children has waxed feeble. 
6 The Lord kills and makes alive; he brings down to the grave, and brings up. 
7 The Lord makes poor, and makes rich; he brings low, and lifts up. 
8 He lifts up the poor from the earth, and raises the needy from the dunghill; to seat him with the princes of the people, and causing them to inherit the throne of glory: 
9 granting his petition to him that prays; and he blesses the years of the righteous, for by strength cannot man prevail. 
10 The Lord will weaken his adversary; the Lord is holy. Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, nor let the mighty man boast in his strength, and let not the rich man boast in his wealth; but let him that boasts boast in this, to understand and know the Lord, and to execute judgment and justice in the midst of the earth. The Lord has gone up to the heavens, and has thundered: he will judge the extremities of the earth, and he gives strength to our kings, and will exalt the horn of his Christ.

The other key source though is the psalms.  In the Benedictine Office, many of the relevant allusions are concentrated in the Matins psalms set for the Monday (Psalms 32-44), reflecting the focus of that day on the Incarnation, as the table below illustrates - do go and read the full psalms for context.

Luke 1:46-55


My soul does magnify the Lord.
MAGNIFICAT  : * ánima mea Dóminum.
Magnificate Dominum mecum (33:3)

Magnificetur Dominus qui volunt pacem servi ejus (34: 31)

 Magnificetur Dominus qui diligunt salutare tuum (39: 22)

O magnify the Lord with me

The Lord be magnified, who hath pleasure in the peace of his servant

And let such as love they salvation say always, The Lord be magnified
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour
2  Et exsultávit spíritus meus: * in Deo, salutári meo.
Anima autem mea exsultabit in Domino et delectabitur super salutari suo (34:10)

Anima mea sustinet Dominum (32:10)
But my soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in his salvation
Because he has regarded the humility of his handmaid:

for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
3  Quia respéxit humilitátem ancíllæ suæ: *

ecce enim ex hoc beátam me dicent omnes generatiónes.
De caelo respexit Dominus vidit omnes filios hominum (32:13)

 Juxta est Dóminus iis, qui tribuláto sunt corde : * et húmiles spíritu salvábit (33:18)

Memores erunt nominis tui in omni generatione et generationem (44:19)

et humília réspicit in cælo et in terra? (112)
The Lord looketh down from heaven: beholdeth all the children of men

The Lord is near unto them that are of a contrite heart: and he will save the humble of spirit.

They shall remember your name throughout all generations

And looks down on the low things in heaven and in earth?
Because he that is mighty has done great things to me: and holy is his name.
4  Quia fecit mihi magna, qui potens est: * et sanctum nomen ejus.
et exaltemus nomen ejus in idipsum (33:3)

110:9  Sanctum, et terríbile nomen ejus:
And let us extol his name together

Holy and terrible is his name:
And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.
5  Et misericórdia ejus, a progénie in progénies: * timéntibus eum.
Ecce oculi Domini super metuentes eum et in eis qui sperant super misericordia ejus (32: )

 102:13 Quómodo miserétur pater filiórum, misértus est Dóminus timéntibus se

 102:17 Misericórdia autem Dómini ab ætérno, * et usque in ætérnum super timéntes eum.
Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, and upon them that put their trust in his mercy

As a father has compassion on his children, so has the Lord compassion on them that fear him:

But the mercy of the Lord is from eternity and unto eternity upon them that fear him:
He has showed might in his arm: he has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
6  Fecit poténtiam in bráchio suo: * dispérsit supérbos mente cordis sui.
 43: Manus tua gentes disperdidit...sed dextera tua et brachium tuum...
How thou destroyed the heathen with thy hand...but thy right hand and thy arm...
He has put down the mighty from their seat and has exalted the humble.
7  Depósuit poténtes de sede: * et exaltávit húmiles.
32:10 Dóminus díssipat consília Géntium: * réprobat autem cogitatiónes populórum et réprobat consília príncipum.

Juxta est Dominus iis qui tribulato sunt corde: et humiles spiritu salvabit (33:11)

Quoniam qui malignantur exterminabuntur...ansueti autem herditabunt terram (36)

146:6 Suscípiens mansuétos Dóminus: * humílians autem peccatóres usque ad terram
The Lord brings to nought the counsels of nations; and he rejects the devices of people, and casts away the counsels of princes

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of contrite heart, and will save such as be of a humble spirit

Wicked doers shall be rooted out...but the meek spirited shall possess the earth

The Lord lifts up the meek, and brings the wicked down even to the ground.
He has filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he has sent empty away.
8  Esuriéntes implévit bonis: * et dívites dimísit inánes.
Divites eguerunt et esurierunt inquirentes autem Dominum non minuentur omni bono (33:10)

 Eripiens inopem de manu fortiorum ejus: egenum et pauperem a diripientibus eum (34:12)

39:23 ego autem mendícus sum, et pauper: * Dóminus sollícitus est mei.

 106:9 Quia satiávit ánimam inánem: * et ánimam esuriéntem satiávit bonis.

 112:6 Súscitans a terra ínopem, * et de stércore érigens páuperem

The rich have wanted and have suffered hunger, but they who seek the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good

Who delivers the poor from the hand of them that are stronger than he, the needy and the poor from them that strip him.

But I am a beggar and poor: the Lord is careful for me.

For he has satisfied the empty soul, and has filled the hungry soul with good things.

Raising up the needy from the earth, and lifting up the poor out of the dunghill:
He has received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy.
9  Suscépit Israël púerum suum: * recordátus misericórdiæ suæ.
Me autem propter innocentiam suscepisti et confirmasti me in conspectu tuo in aeternum (40:)

 97:4 Recordátus est misericórdiæ suæ, * et veritátis suæ dómui Israël.
And because of my innocence thou upholdest me and shalt set me before thy face forever

He has remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel
As he spoke to our fathers: to Abraham and to his seed for ever.
10  Sicut locútus est ad patres nostros: * Abraham, et sémini ejus in sæcula.
Deus auribus nostris audivimus patres nostri annuntiaverunt nobis (43:1)
We have heard O God with our ears our fathers have declared to us

Do alert me to any allusions I haven't yet included here!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Feast of the Visitation: St Luke 1:39-47

Today is the feast of the Visitation, for which the text is the next section of St Luke chapter 1.

39 Exsurgens autem Maria in diebus illis, abiit in montana cum festinatione, in civitatem Juda: 40 et intravit in domum Zachariæ, et salutavit Elisabeth. 41 Et factum est, ut audivit salutationem Mariæ Elisabeth, exsultavit infans in utero ejus: et repleta est Spiritu Sancto Elisabeth: 42 et exclamavit voce magna, et dixit: Benedicta tu inter mulieres, et benedictus fructus ventris tui. 43 Et unde hoc mihi, ut veniat mater Domini mei ad me? 44 Ecce enim ut facta est vox salutationis tuæ in auribus meis, exsultavit in gaudio infans in utero meo. 45 Et beata, quæ credidisti, quoniam perficientur ea, quæ dicta sunt tibi a Domino.46 Et ait Maria: Magnificat anima mea Dominum: 47 et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.

 [39] And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. [40] And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth. [41] And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: [42] And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. [43] And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [44] For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. [45] And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.46] And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. [47] And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 

Matins readings (St Ambrose)

(Reading 9): We must here consider that the greater cometh unto the lesser, Mary unto Elizabeth, Christ unto John. And again afterwards, to hallow the baptism of John, the Lord came unto him to be baptized. It was soon that the blessings of the coming of Mary and of the Presence of God were made manifest. Have regard here to the distinction made, and to the special weight of every word. Elizabeth was the first to hear the voice of Mary's salutation, but John was the first to receive grace. 

(Reading 10): She heard naturally, but he leaped mystically. She hailed the coming of Mary, he that of the Lord, Mary and Elizabeth spake words full of grace, but Jesus and John worked, and commenced their mystery of godliness from their mothers' beginnings, and so by twin miracles the mothers prophesied from the spirit of their unborn offspring. The babe leaped, and the mother was filled with the Holy Ghost. The mother was not filled before the son, but when the son was filled with the Holy Ghost, he filled his mother also.

(Reading 11): And whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? That is to say, How cometh it to pass that so great a good should befall me, as that the Mother of my Lord should come to me I feel the miracle, I acknowledge the mystery the Mother of my Lord, pregnant with the Word, is full of God. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. It is meet to record how Mary showed this kindness, and abode this mystic number of months.

(Reading 12): She tarried long, not only for friendship's sake, but also for the good of the Great Prophet. For if the first coming of Mary so blessed him, that even as a babe in the womb he leapt for joy, and his mother was filled with the Holy Ghost, what blessedness must we not deem to have flowed upon him from so long neighbourhood of Mary. Thus was the Prophet anointed, and trained by exercise like a strong wrestler, in his mother's womb, for his sinews were being braced for a hard battle.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

St Luke 1:1-38

The opening section of St Luke's Gospel provides a short introduction on the context from the human author, followed by the story of the conception of St John the Baptist, and should sound particularly familiar, as verses 5-16 are the Gospel for the Vigil of the nativity of St John the Baptist, which we observed last week.  Then, we have the text, Verses 26-38, that are the Gospel for the feast of the Annunciation (as well as Ember Wednesday in Advent).

1 Quoniam quidem multi conati sunt ordinare narrationem, quæ in nobis completæ sunt, rerum: 2 sicut tradiderunt nobis, qui ab initio ipsi viderunt, et ministri fuerunt sermonis: 3 visum est et mihi, assecuto omnia a principio diligenter, ex ordine tibi scribere, optime Theophile, 4 ut cognoscas eorum verborum, de quibus eruditus es, veritatem.

5 Fuit in diebus Herodis, regis Judææ, sacerdos quidam nomine Zacharias de vice Abia, et uxor illius de filiabus Aaron, et nomen ejus Elisabeth. 6 Erant autem justi ambo ante Deum, incedentes in omnibus mandatis et justificationibus Domini sine querela. 7 Et non erat illis filius, eo quod esset Elisabeth sterilis, et ambo processissent in diebus suis. 8 Factum est autem, cum sacerdotio fungeretur in ordine vicis suæ ante Deum, 9 secundum consuetudinem sacerdotii, sorte exiit ut incensum poneret, ingressus in templum Domini: 10 et omnis multitudo populi erat orans foris hora incensi. 

11 Apparuit autem illi angelus Domini, stans a dextris altaris incensi. 12 Et Zacharias turbatus est videns, et timor irruit super eum. 13 Ait autem ad illum angelus: Ne timeas, Zacharia, quoniam exaudita est deprecatio tua: et uxor tua Elisabeth pariet tibi filium, et vocabis nomen ejus Joannem: 14 et erit gaudium tibi, et exsultatio, et multi in nativitate ejus gaudebunt: 15 erit enim magnus coram Domino: et vinum et siceram non bibet, et Spiritu Sancto replebitur adhuc ex utero matris suæ: 16 et multos filiorum Israël convertet ad Dominum Deum ipsorum: 17 et ipse præcedet ante illum in spiritu et virtute Eliæ: ut convertat corda patrum in filios, et incredulos ad prudentiam justorum, parare Domino plebem perfectam. 

18 Et dixit Zacharias ad angelum: Unde hoc sciam? ego enim sum senex, et uxor mea processit in diebus suis. 19 Et respondens angelus dixit ei: Ego sum Gabriel, qui asto ante Deum: et missus sum loqui ad te, et hæc tibi evangelizare. 

20 Et ecce eris tacens, et non poteris loqui usque in diem quo hæc fiant, pro eo quod non credidisti verbis meis, quæ implebuntur in tempore suo. 21 Et erat plebs exspectans Zachariam: et mirabantur quod tardaret ipse in templo. 22 Egressus autem non poterat loqui ad illos, et cognoverunt quod visionem vidisset in templo. Et ipse erat innuens illis, et permansit mutus.23 Et factum est, ut impleti sunt dies officii ejus, abiit in domum suam: 

24 post hos autem dies concepit Elisabeth uxor ejus, et occultabat se mensibus quinque, dicens: 25 Quia sic fecit mihi Dominus in diebus, quibus respexit auferre opprobrium meum inter homines.

26 In mense autem sexto, missus est angelus Gabriel a Deo in civitatem Galilææ, cui nomen Nazareth, 27 ad virginem desponsatam viro, cui nomen erat Joseph, de domo David: et nomen virginis Maria. 28 Et ingressus angelus ad eam dixit: Ave gratia plena: Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus. 29 Quæ cum audisset, turbata est in sermone ejus, et cogitabat qualis esset ista salutatio. 30 Et ait angelus ei: Ne timeas, Maria: invenisti enim gratiam apud Deum. 31 Ecce concipies in utero, et paries filium, et vocabis nomen ejus Jesum: 32 hic erit magnus, et Filius Altissimi vocabitur, et dabit illi Dominus Deus sedem David patris ejus: et regnabit in domo Jacob in æternum, 33 et regni ejus non erit finis. 34 Dixit autem Maria ad angelum: Quomodo fiet istud, quoniam virum non cognosco? 35 Et respondens angelus dixit ei: Spiritus Sanctus superveniet in te, et virtus Altissimi obumbrabit tibi. Ideoque et quod nascetur ex te sanctum, vocabitur Filius Dei. 36 Et ecce Elisabeth cognata tua, et ipsa concepit filium in senectute sua: et hic mensis sextus est illi, quæ vocatur sterilis: 37 quia non erit impossibile apud Deum omne verbum. 38 Dixit autem Maria: Ecce ancilla Domini: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. Et discessit ab illa angelus.

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a narration of the things that have been accomplished among us; [2] According as they have delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word: [3] It seemed good to me also, having diligently attained to all things from the beginning, to write to thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, [4] That thou mayest know the verity of those words in which thou hast been instructed. 

[5] There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zachary, of the course of Abia; and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name Elizabeth. [6] And they were both just before God, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame. [7] And they had no son, for that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were well advanced in years. [8] And it came to pass, when he executed the priestly function in the order of his course before God, [9] According to the custom of the priestly office, it was his lot to offer incense, going into the temple of the Lord. [10] And all the multitude of the people was praying without, at the hour of incense.

[11] And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the alter of incense. [12] And Zachary seeing him, was troubled, and fear fell upon him. [13] But the angel said to him: Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John: [14] And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice in his nativity. [15] For he shall be great before the Lord; and shall drink no wine nor strong drink: and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother' s womb.[16] And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. [17] And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias; that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people. 

[18] And Zachary said to the angel: Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years. [19] And the angel answering, said to him: I am Gabriel, who stand before God: and am sent to speak to thee, and to bring thee these good tidings. [20] And behold, thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be able to speak until the day wherein these things shall come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words, which shall be fulfilled in their time.

[21] And the people were waiting for Zachary; and they wondered that he tarried so long in the temple. [22] And when he came out, he could not speak to them: and they understood that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he made signs to them, and remained dumb. 

[23] And it came to pass, after the days of his office were accomplished, he departed to his own house. [24] And after those days, Elizabeth his wife conceived, and hid herself five months, saying: [25] Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he hath had regard to take away my reproach among men.

And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called 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. [28] And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. [29] Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. [30] And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. [31] Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. [32] He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. [33] And of his kingdom there shall be no end. [34] And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? [35] And the angel answering, said to her: 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. [36] And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: [37] Because no word shall be impossible with God. [38] And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 1...Most surely believed. Completæ sunt, Vulgate. πεπληζοφζημένων, Greek. This word signifies—1. fully accomplished; 2. surely ascertained: as it is rendered by S. Ambrose, Theophylact, Euthymius.

Ver. 2.—Which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, &c. Ipsi viderunt, Vulgate. αυ̉τόπται καὶ ύπηζέται γενόμενοι το̃υ λόγου, Greek: that is who were eyewitnesses (oculares spectactores) and ministers of the word: which we may understands—1. of Christ, for He is the Word of the Eternal Father; the meaning then will be, “As the Apostles who saw Christ Himself and ministered to Him delivered them to us.” 2. Of ordinary preaching; the meaning then will be, “As they delivered them who saw the deeds of Christ, and were sent by Him to preach the Gospel.”

Ver. 3.—Having had perfect understanding. παζηκολουθηκότι, Greek: that is “carefully investigating,” and therefore “having understood.”

In order. καθεξη̃ς, Greek; that is—1. successively, 2. distinctly, in order so as to relate, first the conception of Christ, then His nativity, afterwards His life, and lastly His death and resurrection.
Theophilus. Theophilus was a noble and chief man of Antioch, who was converted by S. Peter and dedicated his house as a church in which S Peter held assemblies of Christians, and placed his chair as primate, as S. Clement relates Recog. lib. 10, cap. ult. Baronius conjectures that S. Luke, who was a physician and painter of Antioch, wrote to Theophilus as a citizen and as his own intimate friend; Theophylact adds that S. Luke was a catechumen of Theophilus, for S. Peter by himself was not able to instruct the multitude who came together to be taught the faith of Christ, and therefore he made use of the labours of many others for instructing the faithful. He is called most excellent, which was a title given to governors and magistrates; he seems therefore to have been a senator or governor of Antioch.

Ver. 4.—That thou mayest know the certainly. Veritatem, truth, Vulgate. άσφάλειαν, Greek, certainty, stability.

Ver. 5.—There was in the days of Herod. S. Luke begins by mentioning the name of Herod to point out the time when John the Baptist and Christ were born; and also to show that the sceptre had now departed from Judah, and had passed over to an alien, and therefore that the time for the advent of the Messiah was at hand according to the prophecy of Jacob, Gen. xlix. 10. This Herod was the first of that name, surnamed the Great, the father and grandfather of the others. He was a native of Ascalon, an Idumæan by nation, in character a tyrant. By the favour of Caesar he held the kingdom of Judæa; but Christ thrust him and his descendants out of this kingdom, and claimed for Himself the kingdom over Israel which by right was due to Him, though it must be understood as a spiritual kingdom.
Hence he is rightly called Herod, for Herod in Syriac is the same as “a fiery dragon.” According to Pagninus, Herod signifies in Hebrew “the conception of threshing,” for הדה is to conceive, and דוש to thresh, because he slew the infants in Bethlehem.

Zacharias. He was a priest and also a prophet, as will appear from verses 64 and 67. Whence his name is enrolled among the saints in the Roman Martyrology for the 5th of November: where Baronius, following Origen, Nyssen, Cyril, and Peter Alexander, is of opinion that this Zacharias was the martyr who was slain by Herod between the Temple and the Altar, and therefore that he was the one whom Christ mentions, S. Matt. xxiii. 35. His head is preserved and shown at Rome in the Lateran Basilica, from which there is a tradition that formerly blood trickled during several days. I have seen it there and venerated it...

And her name was Elizabeth. Zacharias in Hebrew is the same as “God remembered;” and Elizabeth, “the oath of God,” or “the sceptre and dominion,” or “rest,” or “fulness of God.” So that the meaning is that God, mindful of His oath, united these two in marriage, that He might raise up the sceptre of the house of David, and bestow rest and plenty and abundance on His own.

Ver. 6.—Righteous (just) before God. Many appear just before men, but few before God, because men look upon the countenance, but God on the heart and conscience. S. Francis says truly, “Each man is what he is before God, and no more.” 

Walking in all the commandments, &c. Commandments, i.e. the moral precepts of the Decalogue. Ordinances, i.e. the ceremonial precepts.  God gave to the Hebrews by Moses precepts of three kinds. 1. Moral precepts, which are contained in the two tables of the law. 2. Judgments which relate to justice and human polity, and chiefly concern princes. 3. Statutes, decrees ceremonial, pertaining to the sacrifices and rites observed in the worship of God. These are called here and elsewhere Justications, Vulgate: first, because those who observe them do what is most right and just, that is to say, perform the service and worship which is most rightfully due to God. Secondly, because by the observance of these men formerly under the old law were justified legally; for those who fulfilled them were considered just persons by the Synagogue, and that not only before man but before God, if they performed those things from the true love of God. For the doers of the law are justified, Rom. ii. 13...

Ver. 11.—There appeared unto him an angel (Gabriel, as is clear from v. 19), standing on the right side of the altar. 1. Because he had come to announce good tidings. Euthymius. 2. Because he brought down the token of Divine mercy, for the Lord is on my right hand, therefore I shall not be moved. S. Ambrose. We may learn from this that angels stand by altars, priests and sacrifices, and co-operate with them in the worship and adoration of God. Of this there are many instances in the lives of the saints, some of which I have mentioned, Exod. xxix. 38; Lev. ix. 24.

Ver. 12.—Zacharias was troubled. Both because of the unusual sight, and because of the majesty in which he appeared, which human weakness could scarcely endure to behold: “for man is not strong enough to bear such a strange and unusual sight without alarm.” Titus. So Daniel, when the same angel appeared to him, says, “There remained no strength in me, and my comeliness was turned into corruption.” Hence it is the sign of a good angel if at first he causes fear and afterwards joy; but of a bad angel if he makes a man sorrowful after causing joy; whence S. Antony says, “If joy has succeeded to fear we may know that the vision is from God; for the peace of the soul is a sign of the Divine presence; but if the fear remains unshaken it is an enemy who is seen.”..

Ver. 15.—Great in the sight of the Lord: to Whom alone it belongs to determine what is great, what is ordinary, and what is small. Many, says S. Theophylact, are called great in the sight of men, who, being little, esteem little things as great; but John was great in the sight of the Lord, who, being great, weigheth things that are great. He was great on account—1. of his sanctification in his mother’s womb; 2. the depth of his humility; 3. his extraordinary charity; 4. his exemplary penitence; 5. his seraphic zeal; 6. his whole life, which was as much human as angelic; 7. the sublimity of his prophesying; 8. his solitary life; 9. his office of forerunner of Christ; 10. his most noble martyrdom. See the twenty eight privileges ascribed to John, which Baradius enumerates here...

Ver. 17.—He shall go before Him. John went before Christ. 1. In his birth, for he was born six months before Christ. 2. In his baptism, for he baptized before Christ did; yea, he even baptized Christ. 3. In preaching, of repentance that he might prepare the way for Christ. 4. By pointing out Jesus as the Messiah and Lamb of God who should take away the sin of the world. 5. By suffering martyrdom before Christ. 6. In descending to the fathers in limbus, and announcing to them that Christ would soon come and set them free.

In the spirit and power of Elias. As Elias did excel and in the end of the world will excel in a spirit steadfast and powerful for contending against Antichrist, so that he will convert Jews and others from him to Christ; so in the same powerful spirit John will excel, and by his preaching and holy example move the hardened Jews to repentance, and so prepare them for the baptism of Christ.
The spirit of power in John was like that in Elias; 1. In the austerity of his life. 2. They both lived in solitude. And  3, in poverty and contempt of the world. 4. In zeal, and in fervour of preaching, by which both of them converted many Israelites to repentance, and Elias will again do so in the last days, according to the saying (Ecclesiasticus xlviii. 1), “Elias stood up like fire, and his word burned like a lamp.” In the same way Christ says of John, “He was a burning and a shining light,” S. John v. 35. 5.  In fortitude and suffering: for as Elias contended against the priests of Baal, and their patrons Ahab and Jezebel, and again in the last days will contend against Antichrist and his followers and will suffer many things from them and at last be slain as a martyr; so John contended against Herod and Herodias, and being beheaded by them obtained the crown of martyrdom.

John here is rather compared to Elias in his future coming than in his past; because, as Elias will precede the second coming of Christ with great spirit and power, so likewise John with the same spirit, and power will precede the first coming of Christ.  S. Ambrose says that he will go before Him “in the spirit and power of Elias, because Elias had great power and grace, so that he turned back the hearts of the people to faith, power of abstinence, and patience and the spirit of prophecy. Elias was in the wilderness; so also was John. . . . The one sought not the favour of Ahab; the other despised that of Herod. The one divided Jordan; the other brought men to the laver of salvation. The one was the forerunner of our Lord’s first advent, the other of His second,” &c.

To turn the hearts of the fathers, &c. John did this when he urged them by word and example to imitate the faith and piety of their fathers; for thus the fathers acknowledged their children as the worshippers of the true God. These words are taken from Malachi, who speaks literally of Elias, typically of John.
And the disobedient, &c. Greek α̉πειθει̃ς, Vulgate, incredulos. That is, he will turn them to the faith and wisdom which the just had and have concerning Christ, which consists in the fear and love of God and of heavenly things, and not perishable, according to the teaching of Christ (Maldonatus). Or, John will cause the unbelieving Jews to consider the signs of the coming of the Messiah given by God to the fathers, and from them to know and believe that Christ has already come, and that this Jesus, whom John pointed out as such, is He.

A people prepared, &c. Perfectam, Vulgate; κατασκευασμενον, Greek; that is well and perfectly prepared and made ready for receiving the teaching and faith of Christ, and the perfection of grace, justice, and the Christian life brought by Christ from heaven.

Ver. 18.—And Zacharias said to the angel, &c. That is, give a sign or a miracle for a proof to me that the great things which you are promising will surely come to pass. This hesitation on the part of Zacharias seems to have proceeded from want of deliberation and reflection, and therefore was only a venial sin, for which he was punished by being deprived of the power of speech. For otherwise did Abraham, who, when the angel promised that Isaac should be born to him from Sarah who was barren, immediately believed, “for he was strong in faith, giving glory to God, being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able also to perform,” Rom. iv. 20, 21.

Ver. 19.—I am Gabriel, who stand. That is, “I am wont to stand, ready to minister to the will of God in all things; I am not indeed now standing before Him in heaven, for I have been sent thence to thee to the earth.” Although on the earth angels may also stand before God, and behold His Face; for God is everywhere (S. Matt. xviii. 10). Hence we may gather that the same angels stand before God and minister to Him, although S. Dionysius the Areopagite and S. Gregory deny this; for Gabriel stands before God and ministers to Him, and is sent to Zacharias....

Gabriel in Hebrew means God hath strengthened me, or the strength of God, or God is my strength. He is therefore fitly sent to announce the birth of John and to bestow upon him the spirit of power.
Ver. 20.—And behold thou shall be dumb, &c. Theophylact and S. Ambrose translated, “thou shalt be deaf,” and so make a distinction from what follows, “and not able to speak.” For although the Greek word σιωπω̃ν properly signifies one who is dumb, yet one who is deaf may be understood by the same word; for dumbness and deafness are naturally connected, for those who are born dumb are also deaf, and vice versa. Wherefore the Greeks alike call a dumb and a deaf man κω̃φν. Zacharias therefore was made deaf as well as dumb. Whence in verse 22 he is called κω̃φος. Hence at verse 62 his friends and neighbours do not speak to Zacharias as being deaf, but signify to him by signs that he should write the name by which he wished his son to be called. “He rightly,” says Theophylact, “suffered these two things, the loss of hearing and the loss of speech; for because he had been disobedient, he incurs the punishment of deafness; and because he had objected, of silence.”

Until the day that these things, &c. Zacharias not believing the promises of the angel, had asked for a sign to be given him of the birth of John; the angel therefore complying gives him a sign which at the same time shall be a punishment...

Ver. 26...The Angel Gabriel. S. Jerome remarks on Daniel viii. that there are three angels, Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, who are especially mentioned in Scripture; of whom Michael presides over the prayers and offerings of the faithful and is therefore called Michael (that is, who is like God); for it is the prerogative of God alone to hear the prayers of penitents: while Raphael presides over the healing of men’s bodies, and he therefore restored sight to Tobias when he was blind; whence he is called Raphael (that is the Healer or the Healing, of God); and thirdly Gabriel (or the strength of God) presides over the conflicts and wars of the faithful (as is clear from Dan. xii. &c.). Wherefore he is sent to announce the birth of Christ, who was to carry on a most severe war against Lucifer, and the rest of the demons and impious men. Again Gabriel in Hebrew means man of God; the meaning of which is that God will be incarnate, and will be a child as to nature and age; but yet He will also be a man, because from the first instant of His conception His soul will be full of all knowledge, grace, and strength, according to the saying of Jer. xxxi. 22, a woman shall compass a man. Again, Toletus following Basil, Dionysius and others, is of opinion that Michael was one of the principalities, which S, Dionysius places as the first order of the third hierarchy of angels, but that Gabriel was of the order of archangels; but it is more probable that Michael was of the order of the seraphim, and that Gabriel was next to him.

Ver. 27.—To a Virgin espoused to a man, &c. Espoused, not by betrothal only but by matrimony already contracted, although not actually consummated, see Matt. i 18. S. Gregory Thaumasius (Serm. 3 de Annun.) says, “Gabriel is sent to prepare a chamber worthy of the most pure Bridegroom; he is sent to contract espousals between the creature and the Creator.” Also S. Bernard (Serm 1 de Assump.) well says, “There is no place in the world of greater dignity than the temple of the virginal womb in which Mary conceived the Son of God, nor in heaven is there any place of higher dignity than the royal throne on which her Son has exalted Mary.” And in Serm. 4, “What angelic purity even may we venture to compare with that virginity, which was worthy of becoming the shrine of the Holy Spirit, and the abode of the Son of God.”

Mary. In Hebrew Miriam, that is, Mar Yam, myrrh, or bitterness of the sea; for the Hebrews have a tradition that the sister of Moses was called Miriam, because when she was born the bitter tyranny of Pharaoh in drowning the Hebrew children began. But, by the Divine will, the name was afterwards changed to a different meaning, for after the Red Sea had been crossed and Pharaoh had been drowned, she was called Mariam (Mara Yam), that is mistress of the sea; for as Moses was the leader of the men, so Miriam was the leader of the women in the passage of the Red Sea. Moreover she was a type, says S. Ambrose, of the Blessed Virgin, who is called Mary, that is the Mistress and Lady of the sea of this world, that she may lead us through it in safety to the promised land, that is heaven. S. Isidore (vii. Etym. cap. 10) says, “Mary is by interpretation illuminator or star of the sea; for she brought forth the Light of the world. But in the Syrian language Mary is called Lady, because she brought forth the Lord.”
For this reason Mary was full of grace, and a sea of graces; for as all rivers run into the sea, so all graces which angels, patriarchs, apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins possessed, came together in her, as S. Bonaventura says.  S. Bridget also shows in her Revelations, i. 9, how delightful the name of Mary is to the angels, and how terrible to demons.

And the angel came in unto her, &c. He glided into the chamber of the Virgin as she was praying in secret for the advent of the Messiah and the salvation of men, either through the window or through the door. For angels, since they are most pure spirits, by means of their subtlety pass through all walls and bodies. Although Andrew, Bishop of Jerusalem, in a sermon on the Annunciation, thinks that the angel secretly opened the door and modestly saluted the Virgin.

Hail, Ave. It is very probable that the angel used the ordinary salutation of the Hebrews, שלום לך, Peace be to thee. Unless the opinion of Serarius is to be preferred, that ave is the Hebrew חוה chave or have, that is, “Live;” so that there is an allusion to the name of Eve, which is in Hebrew חוה chava, that is the mother of all living (Gen. iii. 20), so that the meaning will be, Eve was not the mother of life but of death, because by sin she delivered over all her children to death, but thou, 0 Mary, art truly called Eve, because thou art the mother of life, grace, and glory. Hence in Latin ave is Eva reversed, because Mary turned the maledictions of Eve into blessings.

Highly favoured. Gratia plena, Vulgate, full of grace. Greek, κεχαζιτωμένη, which Beza translates gratis dilecta, freely loved; for he thinks that the just have no inherent and intrinsic, but only an extrinsic righteousness, which consists in this, that, although they be sinners, God of his own good will holds and reckons them as just; which is heresy.

But κεχαζιτωμένη answers to the Hebrew נחנה, filled with grace or made acceptable; for χαζιτοω, signifies I make acceptable, I render beloved or dear, I fill with grace. For God judges nothing to be acceptable except what is truly in itself acceptable; wherefore when He makes any one just and acceptable to Himself, He bestows upon him the gift of justice and inherent grace. Wherefore κεχαζιτωμένη is the same as full of grace: as it is rendered in our version and the Syrian, &c.; also by S. Ambrose and others of the Fathers. This word therefore signifies—1. That the Blessed Virgin had a gift of grace bestowed upon her by God, and that, in a full measure of excellence beyond other just and holy persons, for this epithet is applied solely to the Blessed Virgin, to the end that she might be made worthy to become in time the Mother of God.  2. That she by means of this gift of grace was wonderfully well-pleasing in the sight of God and of all His angels, and in their eyes altogether lovely and beautiful, so that Christ chose her before all others for His mother.

You will say that Christ was more full of grace than the Blessed Virgin. Others also of the saints are said to have been full of the Holy Spirit, as Stephen.

I answer that they are said to have been full of grace, but in different ways. For, as Maldonatus rightly says, a fountain is full of water, so is a river, so are streams, although there is more water and purer in a fountain than in a river, and in a river than in streams. Christ is full of grace, like a fountain where grace gushes forth and is collected as in a reservoir, and from which it flows forth to all men, as from a head to the members. The mother of Christ is full like a river very near a fountain, which although it has less water than a fountain, yet flows with a full channel. Stephen is full like a stream. 

S. Augustine (Serm xviii de Sanctus) says, “Mary is filled with grace, and Eve is made clear from guilt; the curse of Eve is changed into the blessing of Mary.” Toletus (annotat. 67) shows that the Blessed Virgin was full of all grace, both in body and soul. For she was free from concupiscence (fomite concupiscentiæ), so that in her the flesh was subject to the reason and the spirit, as was the case with Adam in Paradise through original righteousness. Wherefore he adds that in her, nature conspired with grace and co-operated with it in every respect. See also what I have said concerning her in the Commentary on the Canticles, especially on those words (c. iv. 7), Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee.

S. Jerome (Serm. de Assump. B.V.) says, “It is well said that she was full of grace, because on others grace is bestowed partially (per partes), but the fulness of grace in complete treasure was infused into Mary.” And again, “The entire fulness of grace, which is in Christ, came upon Mary, although in a different way.”

Suarez shows that the grace possessed by the Blessed Virgin in the first instant of her conception was greater than the grace which the highest angel possesses, who by one or two acts has perfected all his merits, and therefore she merited more than thousands of men merit through their whole life. Wherefore the Blessed Virgin in this first instant loved and praised God with such earnestness of intention that she exceeded the love, and consequently also the merit, of the highest angel. But in the second instant of her co-operation and love, by means of the increase of grace which in the first instant she had merited and had in reality received, she doubled the degrees of love and consequently also of merit; and in the third instant, by doubling the same she quadrupled both merit and grace; and so in every instant, by doubling continually the grace she had received, until her death in the seventy-second year of her age, she had increased the degrees of grace and merit to such an extent that she altogether excelled in them all men and angels taken together. Wherefore she by herself alone is more acceptable to God than all the rest; and God loves the Blessed Virgin alone more than the whole Church, that is, more than all men and angels taken together. See also the Revelations of S. Bridget i. 10.

The Lord is with thee. The angel gives the reason why she was full of grace, that is, because the Lord was with her in a singular manner, so that He wrought in her the singular work of the Incarnation of the Word.  S. Bernard (Serm. 3) says, “What wonder is it that she was full of grace with whom the Lord was? But this rather is to be wondered at, how He who had sent the angel to the Virgin was found by the angel with the Virgin. Was God then swifter than the angel, so that He outstripped him and reached the earth before His swift messenger? Nor is it to be wondered at. For since the king was on His couch, the sweet ointment of the Virgin gave forth its odour, and the smoke of spices went up in the sight of His glory, and she found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” And further on he shows that God is in all creatures by power, in rational beings by knowledge, in the good by love, and therefore He is with them by concord of the will, for it is by means of this that they unite themselves to God. Then he adds, “But since He is in this way with all the saints, yet He was in an especial manner with Mary, between whom and Himself there was such a consent that He joined not only her will, but her flesh to Himself, and of His own and the Virgin’s substance made one Christ; who although He is not wholely of God nor wholely of the Virgin, yet He is wholely God’s and wholely the Virgin’s, and not two sons, but the one son of both.” Then he shows that the whole Trinity was with the Blessed Virgin. “Not only is the Lord the Son with thee whom thou art clothing with thy flesh, but also the Lord the Spirit by Whom thou art conceiving, and the Lord the Father who begat Him whom thou art conceiving.”

S. Bridget (Revel. iii 29), conversing with the Blessed Virgin, says, Thou art made like to the Temple of Solomon, in which the true Solomon moves, and He sits who has made peace between God and man. Blessed therefore art thou, 0 Blessed Virgin, in whom the great God became a little child, the eternal God and invisible Creator became a visible creature.” The Blessed Virgin answers, “Why do you compare me with Solomon and his Temple, since I am the mother of Him Who has neither beginning nor end, for the Son of God, Who is my Son, is Priest and King of kings. In short, in my Temple He clothed Himself spiritually with the priestly garments in which He offered sacrifice for the world.”

Further S. Thomas (Quæst. xxx. art. 4) expounds the words the Lord is with thee of the Conception and Incarnation of the Word, which was presently to take place, but which had not already taken place; as I shall show at verse 38.

Blessed art thou among women. The same was said of Jael and Judith, but it is said here of the Blessed Virgin in a far more excellent way, for she excelled Jael and Judith, and all virgins and matrons a thousand times in blessings, gifts, and graces.

S. Augustine (Serm. 18 de Sanctis) says, “Blessed art thou among women, for thou hast brought forth life both for men and women. The mother of our race brought punishment into the world; the Mother of our Lord brought salvation to the world. Eve was the originator of sin, Mary of merit.” Peter Chrysologus (Serm. 145) says on these words, “She was truly blessed, for she was greater than the heaven, stronger than the earth, wider than the world; she by herself alone contained God, whom the world contains not; she bore Him Who bears the world; she brought forth Him by Whom she had been begotten, she gives nourishment to the Nourisher of all things living.”

Among women. That he might signify that whatever is most excellent in the threefold condition of women is found in the Blessed Virgin. For women are either virgins or widows, or living in matrimony. In Virgins chastity is praised, but not barrenness; in widows liberty of mind is commanded, but not solitude, for it is written (Eccles. iv. 10) “Woe to him that is alone, for when he falleth he hath not one to lift him up.” In matrimony the education of offspring in what is good is highly esteemed, but not the loss of Virginity. The Blessed Virgin alone among all women possessed virginity without barrenness; liberty of mind without loss of companionship, since she was really espoused to Joseph; and what is a greater thing than these, fruitfulness in offspring without the violation of virgin chastity. And so she appropriated whatever is good in the threefold state of women, and whatever is evil she rejected. Whereupon deservedly the angel proclaims her Blessed above all women...

Ver. 36...The angel stood, and was silent, eagerly expecting the answer and consent of the Virgin. Whence S. Bernard (Serm.4, super Missus Est) says, that Adam and all the patriarchs and prophets, being anxious concerning the coming of the Messiah and the salvation of men, were waiting for this consent; and he adds “the whole world, prostrate at thy knees, is waiting for this: and rightly, since on thy words depend, the consolation of the miserable, the, redemption of the captives, the liberation of the damned, the salvation, in short, of all the sons of Adam. Make answer, 0 Virgin, speedily, speak the word which earth, which the dwellers below and the dwellers on high are waiting for. The King and Lord of all things Himself desires thine assent, by which His purpose is to save the world.”

Ver. 38.—And Mary said, &c. Mark the humility, modesty, and resignation of the Virgin, for though saluted by the angel as Mother of God, she calls herself His handmaid, not His mother; handmaid by nature, mother by grace. Pet. Dam. (Serm. 3 de Nativ. Virg.). And S. Bernard (Serm. in Apoc. 12) says, “A great sign: deservedly she made mistress of all who declared herself servant of all.”
Be it unto me (Fiat). This word shows that she consented and yielded her assent to the angel with respect to the conception of the Word; also that she wished, desired, and earnestly prayed for the Incarnation of the Messiah, so that He might redeem and save mankind. For this the Blessed Virgin most ardently desired and prayed for. “Be it so, is a mark of desire, not a sign of doubt.”  S. Bernard (Serm. 4 sup. Missus Est).