SUNDAY'S PAGES
Top Planning Resources for Sunday
SUNDAY'S PAGES
Top Planning Resources for Sunday

🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫 WORD TO EUCHARIST 🟫🟫 GOSPEL 🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫

From Word to Eucharist

While I process today as a sinner among sinners in need of God’s grace in Christ, let me picture all the processions of past and present as we await the coming of the Lord.

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Fr. Tony’s Homilies

Overview
1st & 2nd Reading
Gospel Exegesis
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Faith Sharing,
Discussion,
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Over 50 questions each week from which to pick and choose.

Larry Broding
Fr. Eamon Tobin
Fr. Clement Thibodeau
Vince Contreras

INTROFIRSTPSALMSECONDGOSPELCATENA AUREA

The Mystery Revealed

4B Advent

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During these last few days of Advent, we are invited into the heart of the Christian faith, a profound and challenging mystery so simple in its outward manifestation that it is easily overlooked and so unfathomable in its depths that it cannot be comprehended by the rational mind. Keep Reading…

SOURCE: LPi Connect

Getting Started

Liturgical and pastoral resources from National Catholic Reporter’s Celebration
INTRO TO READINGS

The obedience of faith

by Sr. Mary M. McGlone — 2017

Scripture scholar and Blessed Sacrament Fr. Eugene LaVerdiere used to describe the scene in which the angel Gabriel seeks and speaks to Mary as one that could be played out spectacularly on film. It begins with a panoramic view of the world that solemnly zooms in and spotlights one tiny place. We could imagine the overture from the film score to The Mission behind Google Earth images slowly moving in from the vastness of space, to this planet and then the Middle East. It slowly focuses on a little area along the eastern Mediterranean where it looks like a couple of lakes are connected by a river. Eventually the focus comes down to a particular part of the earth and the sea and river disappear. All we see is a dusty, little town and finally one young woman, presumably going about her everyday business.

That’s how Luke introduces the story of the angel’s encounter with Mary. It begins in heaven, the angels’ abode with God. Then, reminding us of the history and the land of Israel, Luke focuses not on Jerusalem, the great city of the Temple, but on the backwater town of Nazareth in Galilee. Passing by any and everybody considered to be important, Luke then highlights one young woman.

As Emily Dickinson would say, she’s nobody. Barely more than a child, she’s nobody’s wife and nobody’s mother. But God’s angel lands in front of her. There, in the middle of nowhere, the angel addresses the young woman, a societal nobody. The angel asks her to agree to God’s plan to change everything. This is the mystery we are invited to contemplate as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas.

As we hear the closing words of his letter to the Romans today, Paul explains that the mystery of Christ has been revealed to bring the entire world to the obedience of faith. In order to understand that, we need to know what obedience meant in Paul’s vocabulary. Obedience is a word for listening. It implies listening so carefully, so attentively, so openly, that the listeners are prepared to be changed by what they hear. Getting people to listen is ultimately the only way to bring about change. Law may be imposed on people. But if they don’t internalize the law, if they don’t choose it as a good way to act, it is only as effective as the penalties for infractions are painful and unavoidable. Paul believed that the mystery of Christ was a mystery so exciting and life-giving that it would bring people to obedience — if only they would listen to it with their heart.

Mary listened to the angel. She allowed her heart to be vulnerable to God’s grace, which is another way of saying she was obedient. She wasn’t passive, she clearly explained why the plan seemed impossible — she was nobody, only betrothed, not yet even a real wife. But she was simple enough, open enough, to hear that God’s plan was bigger than her expectations or even her imagination. When the Holy Spirit is allowed on the scene, nothing is impossible.

This year we have the shortest Advent season possible. Our last week of Advent can begin no earlier than the first anticipated Mass on Saturday afternoon and it will come to an end with the first Mass of Christmas Eve on Sunday afternoon. This “week” of 24 hours or less seems to be a trick of liturgical time. Perhaps it’s also a reminder that God doesn’t wear a watch or carry a Day-Timer. God’s time is as different from ours as God’s thoughts are bigger than our imaginations. Only God would dream up a plan to save the world by starting with young Mary of Nazareth. Only God would keep turning to us, hoping for obedience.

The angel said to Mary, “The Lord is with you.” The angel also said, “Do not be afraid.” The message that God is with us can be very troubling. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to God’s presence, everything can change and that’s not always comforting.

The message we are invited to ponder today during this 24-hour, final week of Advent, is that the Creator of the universe wants to be with us. When we are invited to ponder all that could be, the angel reminds us “nothing will be impossible for God.” The mystery of Christmas that we celebrate with lights and crèche scenes, gifts and shared food, is not just a historical commemoration. Luke wants us to listen for Gabriel’s wings approaching our town. The angels will tell us, “Do not be afraid.” Heaven is hoping we will respond with the obedience of faith.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.
LITURGICAL PLANNING

Planning: 4th Sunday of Advent

by Lawrence Mick — 2017

This weekend will be something of a nightmare for planners and musicians. (If you start feeling sorry for yourself, think about the pastor or secretary who will be answering all those phone calls!) The fourth week of Advent starts and ends this weekend. The problems, of course, arise from trying to celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent on Saturday evening and Sunday morning and then starting the celebration of Christmas on Sunday afternoon or evening.

Parish leaders need to determine well in advance what is really workable. If you have a noon Sunday Mass, for example, how soon can you really manage the first vigil Mass of Christmas? Do you need to defer the start of Christmas a few hours or can you cancel the noon Mass on Sunday and convince people to come to earlier Masses to complete Advent?

Many people today have gotten into the habit of celebrating Christmas Mass very early on Christmas Eve. That frees them for whatever family activities they want to do on the feast itself. For some, it amounts to “getting Mass out of the way,” but for many, it just allows a more relaxed celebration of the feast. While parish leaders naturally try to accommodate this desire for early Christmas Mass, you might question whether scheduling such Masses at 2:00 p.m. (or even 3:00 or 4:00) is really helping people to keep the religious nature of Christmas foremost in their awareness. Even if you normally have such early Masses for Christmas, the calendar this year might call for delaying a bit later so that there is some gap between the Advent Sunday and Christmas.

Another concern, of course, is when to decorate the worship space for Christmas. The temptation, of course, is to do all of that on Saturday, but that will conflict with the Advent liturgy. You could bring in major elements like Christmas trees (unlit) and the manger (without figures), signaling the nearness of the feast but still letting Advent’s preparatory nature be evident.

Whatever schedule is determined, make sure that all the various ministers involved are notified well in advance. It is often difficult to fill all the ministry slots in holiday periods, so start early. Remember to let lectors know which readings are being used at each of the Christmas Masses: Vigil, Night, Dawn and Day.

The Gospel for this Sunday comes from Luke, even though it’s Mark’s year, because Mark has no infancy narrative. It focuses our attention on Mary, so this might be another time to sing the Magnificat, especially if the assembly just learned a new version last week. That will help them really learn it while it also focuses on Mary in the same style as the Gospel.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved.
PRAYERS FOR MASS

Presider’s Introduction

by Joan DeMerchant — 2017

This last week of Advcnt is brief, but the message is profound. The fulfillment of God’s promises is about to happen! This single day places us in a long line of yearning people. Christmas is upon us, yet the task of endless anticipation is a sacred reality we need to embrace. Just as with those who are inches away from relief, rescue or reversal of any kind, still hang on. All of life is like this.

Penitential Act

by Joan DeMerchant — 2017
  • Lord Jesus, you were promised to Mary by the angel Gabriel: Lord, have mercy.
  • Christ Jesus, you entered this world as a surprise: Christ, have mercy.
  • Lord Jesus, you come to us who are yearning for your presence: Lord, have mercy.

Prayer of the Faithful

by Joan DeMerchant — 2017

Presider: We pray now as members of the human race always waiting for good news.

Minister: For all believers who continue to wait and hope for the final fulfillment of God’s promises … in hope and anticipation, we pray

  • For all the world’s suffering people who have given up waiting for peace and justice … in hope and anticipation, we pray
  • For those who believe they are too insignificant or unworthy for good news to transform their lives … in hope and anticipation, we pray
  • For those who are too busy, too chaotic, too troubled to look for God’s presence in and around them … in hope and anticipation, we pray
  • For those still hurrying to prepare for this holiday season … in hope and anticipation, we pray
  • For those in this community whose personal lives make it difficult to be prepared for the celebration of Christmas and Christ’s coming among us … in hope and anticipation, we pray

Presider: God of promise, today, as with every day, we are on the cusp of fulfillment. It is hard to contain our anticipation, and yet we wait. We long for your ongoing word to sustain us in this in-between time. Keep us expectant, so that, like Mary, we may receive Jesus with open hearts. We ask this in his name, Amen.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved.
commentary
From King David Playing the Harp by Gerard Honthorst, 1622. Wikimedia.

"I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm... Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever." — 2 Samuel 8:13,16

PHOTO CONNECTION
From King David Playing the Harp by Gerard Honthorst, 1622. Wikimedia.

First Reading

4B Advent

2 SM 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16

The Lord is with you.

  • In today’s reading, David wishes to build a temple, a house for the Ark of the Covenant, and so he consults his court prophet Nathan.
  • Nathan relates to David the message that God does not want a house. The essence of God’s message is: You will not build a house for me; I will build a house for you.
  • The word house implies a temple or dynasty.
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor

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REFLECTIONS

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau

God will build an eternal kingdom for David

FIRST READING—1 & 2 Samuel were originally one book in the Hebrew Scriptures. It was written most probably during the reign of King Solomon as a history of the royal court and was meant to establish the dynasty of King David, Solomon’s father, on solid historical and religious foundations. The point of the passage we proclaim today is that God is making a covenant with David: God will be faithful; David and his descendants are invited to be faithful. The words “house of David”have several meanings: palace, temple, dynasty, family status. After the overthrow of the monarchy when no descendant of David sat on the throne of Israel, the covenant with David came to be understood in terms of a future ideal king from the line of David, eventually being seen as the promise of a Messiah.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Fr. Eamon Tobin

One of the most important passages in the Old Testament

FIRST READING—This reading is regarded as one of the most important passages in the Old Testament because it sets off Israel’s messianic hope, the beginning of words about a Messiah who would come from the House of David.

At this time in David’s career, hehas defeated all his enemies and is living in a nice palace. Seeing that God (symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant) is living in a tent, he wants to build a Temple for God. He reveals his thoughts and plans to Nathan, a prophet. But God has other plans which he reveals to Nathan.

God tells Nathan, “Go tell my servant David that instead of him building a house for me (something his son Solomon will do), I will build a ‘house’for him”—a reference to the dynasty of David from which Jesus willcome. (Luke tells us in today’s Gospel that Joseph is fromthe house of David.)

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone

God makes a promise to David

FIRST READING—This reading opens with David taking a time of Sabbath-style leisure and contemplating all that has happened in his young life. We can picture him enjoying a sense of peace and contentment. Knowing that David was the reputed composer of the Book of Psalms, we might picture him with lyre in hand, creating poetry and melody to express his heart’s sentiment: “How can I repay the Lord for all the great good done for me?” (Psalm 116). Singing this prayer gives him an inspiration. He decides that he should muster his forces to build a temple, a place for God to dwell. Even Nathan, the prophet, thinks it’s a good idea — at least until he had time to sleep on it.

God is the one who isn’t convinced about the business of building a temple. Was the problem that David was taking things into his own hands? Was the temple an attempt to try to hem in God’s unruly presence? Perhaps God knew that focus on a temple could blind people to God’s other ways of being with them. In 1 Chronicles 22, David confessed to his son Solomon that he had shed too much blood to be worthy to build a temple. Another motive might have had to do with the question of keeping David from getting lost on an ego trip: If he built a temple, he might become famous for what he did for God instead of being known for what God had done for him. There were plenty of reasons for God to say “No.”

Whatever the underlying rationale, God sent Nathan back to David to tell him to stop drawing up the blueprints and take time to ponder what God had in mind for him. In the speech Nathan gave David, he almost seemed to recite David’s curriculum vitae, except that God got the credit for every good turn in David’s life. What really happened in the back and forth was that God reiterated their history together and made more promises to David.

This brings us to the focus this reading offers for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The point is not what David would do for God, but what God would do for David, and therefore for all of David’s people. Scholars tell us that this reading marks a turning point in the history presented by the Hebrew Scriptures. The promise God makes to David echoes the covenant God made with Abraham. God turns the tables on David, God shows David that he can never repay God and that God intends to do still more for him. God will not simply make David famous, but give him an heir whose kingdom will endure forever.

There is a subtle strain of incarnational theology running through this incident. David wishes to formalize worship, to build a place of encounter with God. God replies that it is not a house, but a kingdom, a people united, that will show forth God’s glory. Yes, Solomon will build a temple — but it is one that is destroyed and rebuilt and destroyed. What God was really building up in this people was a way to dwell among them, to bring them into what Jesus would describe as the kingdom of God.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections, 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

TIPS FOR READERS

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Paul J. Schlachter

Points to consider

  • The selected verses I hear begin with a tidy story, about the good intentions of an upright man. Here I am, while the ark of God dwells in a tent! So the court prophet blesses his proposal. Go, do it, for the Lord is with you.
  • Then Nathan has second thoughts. God speaks through him, not exactly to turn down the king’s proposal. But David is being reminded who’s who. With this oracle God changes our perspective, raises our expectations. It was I who took you from the pasture. I have been with you. I will fix a place for my people Israel. God lays down no conditions here. David did not earn this promise.
  • I need to transform my cosmology, my approach to time. For God is ahead of us – that is the meaning of Advent. God is final master of what is and what will be. In the preamble to our nation’s constitution it says: “Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” But for all our good faith and efforts we cannot guarantee that our descendants will inherit or even respect these blessings.
  • God is the bestower of blessings and promises. If David wants to build a dwelling place for God, God is going to return the favor even more generously. The Lord will establish a house – that is, a dynasty that shall endure forever before me.
  • The reading looks ahead to the Gospel, where the angel announces another eternal kingdom, fulfilled in Mary’s child. Here the promise reads: Your kingdom shall endure forever before me.

Key elements

  • Climax: the prophet’s announcement of a year of favor is a clean break with the status quo, an invitation to let God into our world where we have closed off most options for ourselves and others. Release to the prisoners.
  • Message for our assembly: Here we are in Advent, where we celebrate the times and the seasons, remembering in faith that we are on the verge of really great events, awaiting the final days when God takes charge. We are flooded with new calendars for our latest year. Are we agile enough to adapt to God’s calendar?
  • I will challenge myself: I will challenge myself: to echo the words of assurance that I hear, to tell my listeners that this is the way God favors his children.
SOURCE: Paul J. Schlachter at LectorWorks.org
Greg Warnusz

Intro for listeners

The once nomadic Hebrews used to carry with them the ark of God, what we call the Ark of the Covenant. It was an ornate chest containing the stone tablets inscribed with their covenant with God. When they settled down and grew prosperous, their king proposed to build a permanent shrine for the ark. God responds to the king’s plans.

Oral interpretation

Our Liturgical Setting: Today’s gospel,Luke 1, 26-38, explains the apparent earthly lineage of Jesus: his mother’s fiance was “of the house of David.” That would have helped put one in good standing among the Jews, for David was a revered early king and the original Messiah (literally, “anointed one,” since the inauguration ritual for Judah’s kings was not crowning but anointing). Our first reading includes a prophecy that David would have a long line of royal descendants.

The Historical Situation: Moses had led God’s people out of Egypt around the year we now reckon as 1250 B.C.E. Joshua led them on an invasion of Palestine around 1220. Judges ruled them from 1200 to 1025. The last Judge, Samuel, anointed for them their first king, Saul, around 1030. David succeeded Saul in 1010. The “Ark of God” all this time was an ornate chest containing the stone tablets inscribed with the covenant that God struck with Moses on Mount Sinai (thus the chest’s familiar title, “Ark of the Covenant”). (See Exodus, chapter 25 for the origin of the Ark.) It was the people’s single most sacred object. The chest was quite portable, appropriate for nomadic people. When the nomads stopped for a while, they erected a special tent for the Ark. But now they were more settled, so much so that their king has a permanent house. He wants to make a permanent house for the Ark.

A Theological Reflection: The great irony here is that God is too great to need a house, and, in a neat turn of phrase, promises a house of another kind for his would-be architect. God asks David “Should you be the one to build me a house? Come now, boy king. You’re too big for your britches. You want to make a house? I will tell you about making a house.”

Proclaiming It: Here again, the Lord speaks to a man, David, through another man, Nathan the prophet. Nathan reports not a rumor, but the promise of God. God, who had worked great things through Moses and others, promises David a line of kingly succession. But the promise is conditional, upon the good behavior of David’s son and successor, Solomon. Sadly, the line ends there, at least in its original sense. (Ironically, Solomon got to build the house for the Ark, the temple, that his father had wanted to build.)

Mark the heart of the text, verse 8, “The LORD of hosts has this to say:…”, with a pause and change in your tone of voice. Be the messenger speaking God’s word to the king.

Keep the tempo up as you detail the history of all that God did for David. You’re laying the groundwork so that David must accept the conclusion that God, not David, is in charge of their shared history.

SOURCE: Greg Warnusz at LectorPrep.org

FOCAL THEMES

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Theology of Work Commentary

Background to King David

The Bible regards David as the model king of Israel, and the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles describe his many successes. Yet even David, “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), abuses his power and acts faithlessly at times. He tends to succeed when he does not take himself too seriously, but gets into serious trouble when power goes to his head—for example when he takes a census in violation of God’s command (2 Sam. 24:10-17) or when he sexually exploits Bathsheba and orders the assassination of her husband, Uriah (2 Sam. 11:2-17). Yet despite David’s failings, God fulfills his covenant with David and treats him with mercy.

In 2011, Johnson & Johnson made a series of massive product recalls after customer complaints. It seems there are no guarantees that a trustworthy company’s past performance will be a reliable indicator of future performance. In “No Guarantees: The ‘Fall’ of Johnson & Johnson?“, David Gill provides some measures leaders can take to avoid a great fall.

SOURCE: © 2014 Theology of Work Project, Inc.; Used with permission. (Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.)

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Life Recovery Bible

God has a special plan for each of us

7:9-16 God may have refused David’s request to build the temple, but as we see here, God had an even better plan (Proverbs 3:4-6). God’s plan involved establishing the Davidic covenant, which included the promise of an eternal kingdom with a descendant upon its throne forever.

David was called upon to delay his desire to build a temple and to exercise patience and faith.

There may be times when we have to wait patiently for our dream of recovery to become reality. But God has a special plan for each of us, and when it unfolds, we can be sure it will be better than what we had hoped for.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

BIBLE STUDY

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Sermon Writer

Yahweh has anointed me

Yahweh will make you a house

11c“Moreover Yahweh tells you that Yahweh will make you a house (Hebrew: ba·yit). 12When your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men;”

Moreover Yahweh tells you that Yahweh will make you a house (Hebrew: ba·yit) (v. 11c). Until now, this word ba·yit has been used for a dwelling place—in David’s case, a palace; in God’s case, a temple. God now uses ba·yit in accord with its other meaning—a household or family or dynasty.

When your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom (v. 12). The obvious fulfillment of this promise is David’s son, Solomon, on his throne. However, the more significant fulfillment of this promise will be Jesus, who is also the son of David (Matthew 1:1, 20; Acts 13:22-23; Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8; Revelation 22:16).

He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever (v. 13). The immediate fulfillment of this promise will be accomplished through David’s son, Solomon, who will build a temple in Jerusalem. However, the more significant fulfillment of this promise will await Jesus, who will build an everlasting house for God (Matthew 26:61; 27:40; Mark 14:58; 15:29; John 2:19-22; Hebrews 3:3-4). It will be Jesus who be reign over an eternal kingdom (Luke 22:29-30; John 18:36; 1 Corinthians 15:24-25; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:11).

I will be his father, and he shall be my son (v. 14a). The concept here is adoption. God said, “Israel is my son, my firstborn” (Exodus 4:22)—and “You are my son. Today I have become your father” (Psalm 2:7).

The early Christians adopted this concept of adoption:

• “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God” (Romans 8:14).

• “For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).

“He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son” (Rev. 21:7).

• We are permitted to pray, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5).

The ultimate fulfillment of this promise is through Jesus. He is the son of David (Matthew 1:1, 20) and the son of God (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:32; 22:70; John 20:31; Acts 9:20; Hebrews 4:14; Revelation 2:18).

“If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men” (v. 14b). David’s son will also be God’s son. Fathers chasten errant sons, but they do so to correct rather than to destroy. God will allow Israel’s enemies to chasten David’s son, but will not allow them to destroy him.

This verse suggests that David’s son will have clay feet, and that will prove true. We remember Solomon for his wisdom and wealth, but in his later years he built high places for the gods of his wives. He also worshiped at those places (1 Kings 11:1-8). As a result, God raised up Hadad and Rezon to chasten Solomon (1 Kings 11:14-25).

Exegesis Outline

First Reading Exegesis

Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

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Agape Bible Study

A king forever

Key word in the reading: House

The keyword in today’s First Reading is the word “house,” in Hebrew bayith (pronounced bah’-yith), repeated five times in our passage (verses 1, 2, 5, 11, and 16), but eight times in 2 Samuel 7:1-16 (verses 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 11, 13 and 16) by the prophet Nathan in God’s message to King David. Then David repeats “house” seven more times in his prayer in response to God’s message (verses 18, 19, 25, 26, 27, and 29 twice for a total of fifteen times in the Hebrew.

When David settled in Jerusalem, he did not consider it was fitting that he should live comfortably in his “house” while the Ark of the Covenant, the dwelling place of God among His covenant people, resided in a tent. David wanted to build a “house” (Temple) for Yahweh. In verse 3, Nathan agreed with his plan and told David to proceed because the LORD [Yahweh] was with him. However, that night God came to Nathan in a dream and instructed the prophet to tell David that it was presumptuous of him to think that God needed a house/temple like the pagan gods because the God of Israel cannot be confined to one place. Instead of David building God a “house,” God will reward David by building him a “house” that is a Davidic dynasty, and God would appoint a son of David to succeed him. God establishes a covenant with His faithful servant, David, in which God promises three things:

  1. He will be a “father” to David’s son(s).
  2. He will never withdraw His covenant love from David’s “house/dynasty.”
  3. David’s “house/dynasty” will endure forever.
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
God's promise to David

The promise in verse 14, I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me, is a formula of adoption and the earliest expression of Davidic messianism. Each Davidic king will be God’s adopted son. David writes about his special relationship with Yahweh and His relationship with David’s heirs in Psalm 89. God promises to acknowledge the Davidic heir: He [the Davidic heir] will cry to me, “You are my father, my God, the rock of my salvation!” So I shall make him my first-born, the highest of earthly kings. I shall maintain my faithful love for him always, my covenant with him will stay firm. I have established his dynasty forever, his throne to be as lasting as the heavens (Ps 89:26-29; see the Second Reading).

The Old Testament repeats the promise of the eternal Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel 23:5; 2 Chronicles 13:6; Ps 89:4-5; 132:11-12, 17-18 and Sirach 45:25. The prophets identified the fulfillment of the Davidic king’s everlasting rule in the promised Redeemer-Messiah (cf. Is 4:17; 9:5-6/7; 11:10-12; Jer 17:24-27; 23:5-6; Ez 34:23-24; 37:24-28; etc.). The climax of this charter with humanity through God’s servant David is Jesus Christ, “son of David” (Mt 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 21:9; Lk 1:32; Rom 1:3; etc.). The Church reads this passage from 2 Samuel Chapter 7 in the liturgy of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the protector-husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Joseph is the guarantor of the Davidic descent of Jesus through being “of the house of David” (Mt 1:20; Lk 1:27), as is Mary of Nazareth (Lk 1:30-33).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Nathan, David's court prophet

Nathan was David’s court prophet. Unlike other kings of the ancient Near East, Israel’s kings did not rule with absolute power. They were agents/servants of God, and it was the prophet who communicated God’s instructions to them. It was also the prophet’s duty to confront the king when he committed moral failures. The kings of Israel were to be subservient to the Torah of God, the Divine Law as stipulated in the Law in Ten Commandments, and the additional instructions in the Law codes found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Those laws included rules for the limited power of a king (Dt 17:14-20).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
commentary
A global pandemic will not stop faithful Catholics from singing "the promises of the Lord." Photo is from the La Salle College Mass Choir in Hong Kong who with sing virtually with Shung Tak English College Catholic Society and Our Lady of Rosary College Catholic Society.

"The promises of the LORD I will sing forever; through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness." — Psalm 89:2

PHOTO CONNECTION
A global pandemic will not stop faithful Catholics from singing "the promises of the Lord." Photo is from the La Salle College Mass Choir in Hong Kong who with sing virtually with Shung Tak English College Catholic Society and Our Lady of Rosary College Catholic Society.

Responsorial Psalm

4B Advent

PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29

For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord

This Psalm echoes the sentiments of the First Reading by focusing on God’s fidelity to his promise to be with his people forever.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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FOCAL THEMES

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Life Recovery Bible

God’s ways are not our ways

Luke 1:51-55 These words from Mary’s song present God’s priorities in stark contrast to the way our world thinks. When life seems unfair and does not turn out the way we might have chosen, it is important to realize that God’s ways are not our ways. Personal fulfillment and genuine recovery do not come through human greatness and success, but through repentance and sincere humility. The most important relationships in life are not with the rich and famous but often with the lowly, the needy, and those in recovery.

SOURCE: Content taken from Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

BIBLE STUDY

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Agape Bible Study

Rejoice in God’s mighty works

David's response to Nathan

Psalm 89 is David’s response after the prophet Nathan delivered God’s divine oracle announcing the promise of an eternal covenant with the “house of David” (2 Sam 7:13-16). The covenant was unconditional for David’s descendants as a whole, but the success or failure of individual Davidic kings depended on their faith and obedience to God’s commandments. In Psalm 89:2-5, God affirms that His covenant with David, His “chosen one,” is forever because God is faithful to what He has sworn.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Applying this psalm to Jesus

Applying this psalm to Jesus, Church tradition focuses on verses 26-28. St. Athanasius wrote:

“We read here how he who was made incarnate through the power of the divine economy calls God himself his father: ‘I go up to my Father and your Father, my God and your God’ [Jn 20:17]. He is the one of whom the prophet speaks: he calls the child that is born ‘Mighty God, Everlasting Father’ [Is 9:6]” (Expositiones in Psalmos, 88).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
commentary
St. Peter’s Square marks the boundaries of Vatican City and is the symbol for all Catholics around the world who flock to the square every Wednesday and Sunday to see the Pope. The collonade, with its many statues of saints at the top give testimony to "the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages...made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith." They are meant to symbolize two arms welcoming everyone into the church.
RELATED: The four symbols of the Vatican

"...made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever." — Romans 16:26b-27

PHOTO CONNECTION
St. Peter’s Square marks the boundaries of Vatican City and is the symbol for all Catholics around the world who flock to the square every Wednesday and Sunday to see the Pope. The collonade, with its many statues of saints at the top give testimony to "the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages...made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith." They are meant to symbolize two arms welcoming everyone into the church.
RELATED: The four symbols of the Vatican

Second Reading

4B Advent

ROM 16:25-27

The Gospel reveals a mystery hidden for many ages.

  • In the letter to the Romans, Paul teaches about salvation and faith.
  • Paul stresses that the Gospel, made known to all, is for the salvation of everyone who has faith.
  • The mystery kept secret for ages is now made clear.
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor

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REFLECTIONS

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau

What was a mystery for ages is now revealed

SECOND READING—The Book of Romans closes with a doxology, a short hymn of praise to God. Paul interprets the prophecies of the Jewish Scriptures as having pointed to Jesus Christ in some veiled or mysterious way. Now, he says, the revelation of God is made clear in Jesus.Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One of God. The Holy Spirit now makes it possible for believers to see in retrospect the full meaning of the prophets of old.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Fr. Eamon Tobin

God’s plan revealed

SECOND READING—This reading contains the three concluding verses to a long doctrinal epistle. They appear to have been selected for their reference to the “mystery” which was hidden for all ages but which is now made manifest. The “mystery” is God’s plan for the salvation of all people without distinction. Jesus is at the center of this plan.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone

Obedience is a type of attentive listening

SECOND READING—This very long sentence that makes up today’s entire second reading is essentially a doxology, a prayer blessing God. Paul fills this prayer of praise with theology. The first phrase, “To him who can strengthen you,” is a reminder that everything comes from God, not just in the world of material creation, but even more in the interior state of those who choose to be in relationship with God. From God alone, do we receive the grace and strength we need.

Paul then speaks of his “gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ” as a mystery that has been revealed. In this, he is referring directly to the unique revelation of God in and through Jesus. As Leon Morris points out in his commentary on this letter, there is nothing about the revelation of Jesus that could have been anticipated by human wisdom — not the incarnation, surely not the passion, and not the resurrection. The mystery of Christ is deemed a mystery precisely because it counters human expectations in every phase of Christ’s life.

Paul wants his readers to understand that this mystery is the pinnacle of God’s self-revelation to humanity. All the events of creation and the history of God and Israel have been building up to this moment. Pondering that offers all we might need to guide our prayer from this liturgy into the celebration of Christmas.

But Paul does not stop there. He moves on to explain the proper response to the revelation of this mystery: the obedience of faith. This phrase is as extraordinary as the one indicating that the Christ event was the culmination of salvation history. The proclamation of the Gospel is intended to bring the whole world to the “obedience” of faith.

When we hear this, we need to take care to understand the word obedience in the way Paul used it. In Christian Scripture language, obedience is a type of attentive listening. To be obedient is to allow the word of another to come into you. Obedience is dialogic rather than imposing, it implies that one recognizes the value of allowing the other to lead. The behavior that flows from this sort of obedience to God reveals God’s presence in the person who has listened. The listening implied by obedience leads to a communion of mind and heart.

In closing his letter to the Romans, Paul summarizes his sense that the revelation of Christ is meant to be the culmination of world history. When Paul says, in effect, “To God, the one who offers all of this to us and the world, be the glory,” we hear an echo of the angels’ song, “Glory to God in the highest!” God is changing world history — and each and every one of us along the way. Glory be!

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

TIPS FOR READERS

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Paul J. Schlachter

Points to consider

  • It is the final part of Romans that I hear. It is also one of the apostle’s long sentences that will be very short and out of people’s live recollection unless I read it with understanding. Just because the liturgy commission decided for its own reasons to leave it as one sentence does not mean that I have to read it as such.
  • For example, I think two substantial pauses are necessary, one after proclamation of Jesus Christ, and another after obedience of faith. One or two lesser pauses would help people catch up to the cosmic imaging the apostle gives us: mystery kept secret for long ages, manifested through the prophetic writings and made known to all nations. We need to stretch our sense of time and place, to achieve a time that embraces all times and a place that contains all places.
  • To him who can strengthen you. God is glorified when we realize our full strength (in our weakness, too, as the apostle reminded us in another place), when the good news is proclaimed and made known to all nations.
  • My gospel is the proclamation of Jesus Christ. And so the word ‘and’ between ‘gospel’ and ‘proclamation’ is superfluous. I will pay it little attention.
  • Listen to all the words that refer to proclamation: revelation, manifestation, making known. This reading presumes that God proclaims fully and we participate in it.

Key elements

  • Central point: The passage is a doxology. This is clear in the final phrase, and I will build my acclamation throughout until I reach the end. To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be glory forever and ever.
  • The message for our assembly: We are participants in spreading the gospel. Members from many nations are listening to me today, and they will play a large part in making the revelation known to all nations. If not us, who will do it?
  • I will challenge myself: To turn this unnecessarily complex literal translation into a crisp set of marching orders for our church.
SOURCE: Paul J. Schlachter at LectorWorks.org
Greg Warnusz

Introduction for listeners

Saint Paul summarizes and concludes his letter to the Romans. He emphasizes that God’s plans were only incompletely revealed until now.

Oral Interpretation

Our Liturgical Setting: Several phrases make this passage right for the climax of Advent. It’s not about the birth of the infant Jesus, but about the unveiling of God’s plan for human salvation. Prophets revealed it first, but only to the Jews and only incompletely. Now it is revealed to all the Gentiles as they hear the gospel. For this is God to be glorified. This is joyful, but not sentimental. This is Christocentric, but not “Christmasy.” The editors of the Lectionary must be trying to keep us focused on the big picture, at the time of year when that’s most challenging. This passage bolsters a church that evangelizes itself and the world, and upbraids a church that merely assimilates.

The Theological Background: These are the concluding versions of Saint Paul’s very challenging Epistle to the Romans, a letter difficult to summarize. Digests of it are highly problematic, as you may remember from the Lectionary’s survey of it in the summer of liturgical year A. But you can regard this passage as a recapitulation of Romans 9, 10 and 11, a section which itself ends in a doxology similar to today’s verses. Those chapters are about the history of salvation offered first to the Jews, then, because of the Jews’ rejection of Jesus, to the Gentiles. Paul hopes that the Gentiles’ example will win the Jews back, thus giving God a universal people, more, one might say, than the sum of its parts.

Proclaiming It: This is a perfect example of why it is so hard to proclaim Paul. Read it carefully; it is all one sentence! Three full verses–one sentence. This is going to take the best of your skills to get it across.

Read it several times before you proclaim, to get the sense of it. Observe the commas; they are important stopping points.

Don’t try to do this all in one breath, but take short breaths at the commas. Keep the level of your voice even, except at the end, where you should be more emphatic.

SOURCE: Greg Warnusz at LectorPrep.org

FOCAL THEMES

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Theology of Work Commentary

Work and “the mystery” of God

SECOND READING—In the final verses of Romans, it is apparent that no one’s work stands in isolation; it is interwoven with the work of others. Paul recognizes those who have gone before him, passing on their faith to him, those who have worked beside him, and those who have risked their lives for him and for their common work. This point of view calls each of us to look at the whole fabric of community that constitutes our places of work, to consider all the lives intertwined with ours, supporting and enhancing what we are able to do, all who give up something that they might want for themselves in order to benefit us and to benefit the work that goes beyond us into God’s world.

Summary & Conclusion to Romans: Paul’s dominant concern in Romans is salvation—God’s reconcili­ation of the world through the cross of Jesus Christ. In Christ, God is working to reconcile all people to himself, to reconcile people to one another, and to redeem the created order from the evil forces of sin, death, and decay. Paul’s concern is not abstract but practical. His aim is to heal the divisions among Christians in Rome and to enable them to work together to accomplish God’s will for their lives and work.

In this setting, Paul shows how salvation comes to us as a free gift bought by God’s faithfulness in the cross of Christ and by God’s grace in bringing us to faith in Christ. In no way does this free gift imply that God does not care about the work we do and the way we work. Instead, Paul shows how receiving God’s grace transforms both the work we do and the way we do it. Although we don’t work to earn salvation, as God is saving us, he gives us the amazing diversity of gifts needed to serve one another and build up our communities. As a result, we walk in a new way of life, bringing life in Christ to those around us and, in God’s time, to the fullness of creation.

SOURCE: © 2014 Theology of Work Project, Inc.; Used with permission. (Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.)
Life Recovery Bible

No commentary available

Romans Chapter 16 verses 25-27

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

BIBLE STUDY

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Sermon Writer

In everything give thanks

The Revelation which has been kept secret

25Now to him who is able (Greek: dunameno—from dunamai) to establish (Greek: sterixai—from sterizo) you according to my Good News (Greek: euangelion) and the preaching (Greek: kerygma) of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery (Greek: mysterion) which has been kept secret through long ages….

Now to him who is able (dunameno—from dunamai) to establish (sterixai—from sterizo) you according to my Good News (Greek: euangelion) and the preaching (kerygma) of Jesus Christ” (v. 25a). The word dunamai is where we get our word “dynamite.” It has to do with power—the power or ability to do something or to accomplish something.

The word sterizo has to do with stability—steadfastness—being fixed in place or established. It can mean “strengthened.”

The word euangelion is derived from two Greek words—eu (good) and angello (to proclaim), and is usually translated “Gospel” or “Good News.” In the New Testament, euangelion refers to the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the salvation that he brings.

When Paul says, “my Good News,” he is speaking of the Gospel that he preached rather than the Gospel that he created. He makes that clear in his letter to the Galatians, where he says that “the Good News which was preached by me, …is not according to man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12).

The word kerygma meant proclamation, but came to be associated with the content of early apostolic preaching. In his book, The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments, C. H. Dodd summarized the kerygma as including:

(1) The fulfillment of scripture
(2) The inauguration of a new age
(3) The lineage of Jesus, traceable back to King David
(4) Jesus’ death on a cross
(5) Jesus’ burial
(6) Jesus’ resurrection
(7) Jesus’ exaltation and
(8) The promise that Jesus will come again to judge and to save.

Paul’s point in this verse is that the Gospel—the Good News of Christ and the salvation that he brings—is that which strengthens the Christian—that which makes it possible for the Christian to be steadfast. As Paul said earlier in this book, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (8:31). In other words, if God is for us, what does it matter who is against us—because, in the end, God will prevail. When we have faith in God, we can indeed become rock-steady in the midst of a stormy world.

“according to the revelation of the mystery (mysterion) which has been kept secret through long ages” (v. 25b). Paul uses the word mysterion frequently. In his writings, mysterion means something that God has kept hidden—at least for a period of time. In this case, the mysterion is God’s plan of salvation, which involves Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension.

This mysterion of the role of Christ in our salvation was kept secret for many centuries. God made a covenant with Abraham, but Abraham never learned of the role that Christ would play in fulfilling that covenant. The same was true of Moses and other great men and women of the Jewish faith.

But God left clues aplenty so that, when the plan was fully revealed, the Jewish people could find those clues and relate them to Christ’s work. For instance, when God made a covenant with Abram, he promised, “All the families of the earth will be blessed in you” (Genesis 12:3). The book of Isaiah is replete with allusions to the coming of the Messiah.

But it wasn’t until the death and resurrection of Christ that God pulled back the curtain to reveal that which had been hidden for so long—that Christ not only conquered death for himself, but also for all who have faith in him. We have sinned, which estranged us from God—but Christ, through his death and resurrection, has reconciled us to God once again (Romans 5:10-11). Just as Adam’s sin led to our condemnation, so also Christ’s righteousness makes possible our justification (Romans 5:18).

Exegesis Outline

Second Reading Exegesis

Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

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Agape Bible Study

The mystery of God’s plan

Poem of praise

This passage is the concluding doxology to St. Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome. Unlike St. Paul’s other letters, this one ends with a poem of praise addressed through Jesus Christ to God the Father Almighty, who revealed the mystery of His divine plan to humanity. It is a mystery that was kept secret “for long ages,” announced in the prophetic writings of God’s holy prophets, and has now, through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, been made known to all the nations of the earth.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Incarnation and mission of Jesus Christ

Only with the Incarnation and mission of Jesus Christ has God brought to fulfillment the covenant promises made to Abraham, David, and Israel. St. Paul wrote that the mystery, hidden for many generations, was revealed to the Jews and the Gentiles. The glory of our salvation has come to us through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has called all humanity to “the obedience of faith” in accepting God’s gift of salvation through the sacrifice of God the Son.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
commentary
Mary's spirit of unhesitating obedience to God’s will serves as an enduring example of holiness. The Basillica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC portrays this scene in the Incarnation Dome which also depicts the Nativity, Wedding Feast at Cana, and the Transfiguration.

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." — Luke 1:38

PHOTO CONNECTION
Mary's spirit of unhesitating obedience to God’s will serves as an enduring example of holiness. The Basillica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC portrays this scene in the Incarnation Dome which also depicts the Nativity, Wedding Feast at Cana, and the Transfiguration.

Gospel Reading

4B Advent

LK 1:26-38

Blessed are you among women!

  • The annunciation story in the Gospel of Luke presents Jesus as the fulfillment of the messianic hope.
  • In today’s passage, Mary of Nazareth humbly accepts the will of God, revealed by the angel Gabriel.
  • Luke’s Gospel highlights Mary’s special role in God’s plan of salvation.
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor

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REFLECTIONS

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau

The Word of God comes to Mary

GOSPEL—Luke and Matthew provide infancy narratives concerning Jesus. Mark and John do not. Luke intends to show that the marvelous events surrounding the birth of Jesus already give evidence that God is at work in this man. Luke is theologian rather than historian in the present-day meaning of these words. His intention is to communicate religious truth and not merely the raw data of history. His book is intended as a witness to the works of God in Jesus Christ, not just as an objective, detached report on what happened.

Miraculous births mean supernatural interventions. “God is at work here!” is the message. “This is no mere human event.”

Wondrous things happen in and through women in Luke’s Gospel. They are the willing servants of the Lord God. The Holy Spirit works out God’s power and purpose. Women seem to be ready for God’s work in their lives, since they do not rely primarily on their own power, prestige, strength and status. In that culture, they did not have any of these. So, there was room for God in them!

The angel here is Gabriel, the same who,in the Book of Daniel,announces the fulfillment of salvation (Daniel 9:20-25). Now, again, salvation will come to the human race. Since Mary has no power to achieve God’s purposes on her own, she will open herself up to the indwelling of God’s Spirit. Notice how it is said that she will be “overshadowed”by the Holy Spirit. The result is a new creation, as it was under the power of the Spirit in the Book of Genesis (See Genesis 1:2). The result is a renewal of creation, as it was under the cloud in the Desert of Sinai (See Exodus 40:34).

The One to be born will be called “Son of God,” that is, he will have a right relationship with God, just as a son has with a father. Later, he will be called “Son of Man,”again from the Book of Daniel, meaning he will have a right relationship with the human race. This is Luke’s Gospel in miniature: God is gracious in Jesus Christ through the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit. Mary becomes the first disciple: the first to respond with humility and obedience. It is now up to us to conceive and to nurture the life of God in our own lives. By the initiative and the power of God’s Holy Spirit,we bring Christ to a world from which he is largely shut out. The Church conceives and gives birth, the power of the Holy Spirit, to spiritual offspring and spiritual works that bring glory to God and establish the Kingdom on earth

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Fr. Eamon Tobin

The story of the Annunciation

GOSPEL—Only in Luke’s Gospel do we read the Annunciation story. Neither Mark nor John has stories about Jesus’ birth. In Matthew, the Annunciation story features Joseph, not Mary.

At the beginning of the Gospel story, we are told that Joseph, Mary’s future husband, is of the house of David. So the promise God made to David will be brought to fruition in Mary’s child. He will be given the throne of David and will rule forever.

Mary’s initial response to Angel Gabriel’s appearance and greeting is fear, a pretty common reaction. Sensing Mary’s fear, the angel speaks one of the most common phrases in Scripture: “Do not be afraid.”

The angel proceeds to tell Mary about her “miraculous conception.” While remaining a virgin, she will conceive a child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Unlike any other child before or after him, this child will be both human (born of Mary) and divine(born of the Spirit).

In the Annunciation story, the name ‘Jesus’ is significant. The name means ‘savior.’ His purpose and mission will be to bring salvation to his people.

To help Mary grow in her understanding of God’s mysterious ways, the angel informs her of her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Though advanced in years, she too is with child for “nothing is impossible with God.”

The Gospel story concludes with Mary’s ‘fiat’ (“Let it be done to me.”)—Mary’s ‘yes.’ Her ‘yes’ to the angel makes her a model disciple.It expresses her openness and receptivity to God’s call.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone

God is looking for listening hearts

GOSPEL— Our consideration of the meaning of obedience can lead into our contemplation of the encounter between Mary and Gabriel. Even though the word obedience is never used, the entire story is about Mary’s obedience, her openness to allow the word of God to direct and change her life. When we read this story in the light of Paul’s blessing, we realize how profoundly it reflects the mystery of obedience.

We can also allow this story to spur us to ask about the signs of our times. Luke situates the story in the context of God’s time. It was the “sixth month.” The sixth month of what? Although we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist on June 24, that’s not because Zachariah had a calendar that he bequeathed to Luke. The sixth month of which Luke spoke was the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the sixth month since Gabriel had started talking to people in Israel about God’s upcoming plans. God’s timetable doesn’t match our schedules. Gabriel’s visits invite us to ponder what time it is now on God’s calendar.

When we listen to this story in the light of the first reading, we are struck by the fact that the same God who didn’t want David to build a temple passed by the Temple and the holy city when looking for a home. Deuteronomy 7:7 tells us that God chose Israel not for Israel’s greatness, but because God loved little Israel, because God had called this insignificant people from the days of Abraham and accompanied them when they knew and wanted God’s presence and even when they did not. God’s choice of Mary is a reminder of things that Jesus said over and over about being humble and how unimpressed God is with what society thinks of as signs of importance.

There’s a thought-provoking contrast in the images we have in the first reading and today’s Gospel. David, the great king, wanted to build a temple for God and God said “No.” Instead, God came to a humble woman to ask for a home, and she said “Yes.” David thought he knew what greatness looked like. The kingdom Gabriel described to Mary was beyond the human imagination. In the end, the kingdom that God promised to David was the one inaugurated through Mary’s “Yes.”

Just as the Fourth Sunday of Advent leads directly into Christmas Eve, these readings are a preparation for the stories we will hear and see depicted for Christmas. The stable, not the temple, was Christ’s first house on Earth. God didn’t come to the family of a king or priest, but invited a simple girl, nobody to notice, to be the mother of Jesus.

God’s timing is not ours, and although we often avoid sharing God’s values, that has never stopped God from seeking us out. What it all comes down to is that God is looking for listening hearts. Can that be our gift this Christmas?

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

TIPS FOR READERS

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Paul J. Schlachter

Points to consider

  • We hear the story of the Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary at least once a year in our weekly masses, and more often when we pray the rosary. What can I do to make our assembly listen and plumb the beauty of the story once more?
  • I can begin with Gabriel, the angel with the sounding trumpet identified in the Book of Daniel with the decisive time of God’s final revelation. Mary was greatly troubled – did she react this way because she recognized Gabriel?
  • The angel was sent from God to visit a young woman engaged but before her childbearing time was to begin. So Mary is found outside the expected pattern of woman’s fecundity, as were Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth, your relative.
  • The angel visits a town in the provinces, far from Judea and the holy city. That is another reason she may be surprised (a better word than troubled?), by living away from the public eye. Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima were such places.
  • Luke intends here to explain something about Jesus. As divine, he must not be revealed as such only in his adult years when visionaries like John the Baptist discovered him. People could have known the truth from the beginning of his infancy, even earlier (as we believe the prophets did). They only needed to listen and look, as Mary did. She pondered what sort of greeting this could be.
  • You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. I remember that in ancient times males were thought to beget and females considered as recipients and bearers of the seed.
  • The angel does not request. It will take place: You will conceive. By the Lord has this been done. And people accept the invitation despite their unfitness.
  • Those who have fixed the present text may let their nostalgia for ‘timeless wordings’ cloud their sense of what we receive and treasure. I am not taken in. All these ‘beholds’ and ‘handmaids’ are throwbacks that insult our own ability to express and sing the Lord of all history. I do not emphasize any of these archaisms, but I do take my time around them. Mary is not the submissive servant girl but the willing partner, the instrument of God.

Key elements

  • Climax: Nothing will be impossible for God. Mary knows this. Do we?
  • Message for our assembly: Will we recognize that Jesus is fully man and fully divine, ruling over the house of Jacob forever? A child is born to us!
  • I will challenge myself: To make the name of Nazareth ring in our hearts. This birth has eternal implications.
SOURCE: Paul J. Schlachter at LectorWorks.org
Greg Warnusz

Introduction for listeners

Saint Luke’s original audience were pagans who had become Christians, and had never been Jews. For them Luke grounds the gospel in the Jewish heritage of Jesus. His introduction foreshadows much of what they already knew about the adult mission of Jesus.

Oral Interpretation

The Historical Situation: Saint Luke wrote for an audience quite different from those of Mark and Matthew, different, too, from the Thessalonians and many other recipients of Paul’s letters. Luke’s readers lived a generation or more later than the apostles, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., and outside the Holy Land. They had never been Jews. They were cosmopolitan, middle-class and Gentile, living in a skeptical society, yet attracted to a religion with long historic Jewish roots. But that new religion only came to its fulfillment by reaching out to all humankind. To tell that story, to ground his audience in their adopted religious heritage, and to keep them focused on the religion’s mission, Luke needed to tell the story of Jesus anew in this gospel, and needed a second book, the Acts of the Apostles.

In the chapters of Luke about the adult Jesus, nothing refers back to the infancy narrative in chapters 1 and 2. However, the early chapters point vigorously to themes that will come later. One who has read the whole gospel can then come back to the infancy narrative and “get it” in a new way. One who proclaims this gospel or preaches on it in the Sunday assembly should let the whole gospel message inform that proclamation.

The above introduction to Luke is based on the chapter “Luke” by Scholar Jerome Kodell, O.S.B, in The Collegeville Bible Commentary — New Testament (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1992)

Proclaiming It: Use different tones of voice for Mary and the angel, but don’t overdo it. The climax of the reading comes at the end, where Mary expresses her complete surrender to God. She is both scared and proud. Make her sound so.

SOURCE: Greg Warnusz at LectorPrep.org

FOCAL THEMES

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Theology of Work Commentary

Jesus’ job description

GOSPEL—If it seems strange for God to announce his plan to save the world in the midst of two workplaces, it might seem even stranger that he introduces Jesus with a job description. But he does, when the angel Gabriel tells Mary she is to give birth to a son. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).

While we may be unaccustomed to thinking of “king of Israel” as Jesus’ job, it is definitely his work according to Luke’s Gospel. Details of his work as king are given: performing mighty deeds, scattering the proud, bringing down rulers from their thrones, lifting up the humble, filling the empty with good things, sending the rich away empty, helping Israel, and showing mercy to Abraham’s descendants (Luke 1:51-55). These famous verses, often called the Magnificat, portray Jesus as a king exercising economic, political, and perhaps even military power. Unlike the corrupt kings of the fallen world, he employs his power to benefit his most vulnerable subjects. He does not curry favor with the powerful and well-connected in order to shore up his dynasty. He does not oppress his people or tax them to support luxurious habits. He establishes a properly governed realm where the land yields good things for all people, safety for God’s people, and mercy to those who repent of evil. He is the king that Israel never had.

Later, Jesus confirms this job description when he applies Isaiah 61:1-2 to himself. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). These are political and governmental tasks. Thus, in Luke at least, Jesus’ occupation is more closely related to present-day political work than it is to today’s pastoral or religious professions.[2]Jesus is highly respectful of the priests and their special role in God’s order, but he does not primarily identify himself as one of them (Luke 5:14; 17:14).

The tasks Jesus claims for himself benefit people in need. Unlike the rulers of the fallen world, he rules on behalf of the poor, the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed, and those who have fallen into debt (whose lands are returned to them during the year of the Lord’s favor; see Leviticus 25:8-13). His concern is not only for people in desperate need. He cares for people in every station and condition, as we will see. But his concern for the poor, the suffering, and the powerless distinguishes him starkly from the rulers he has come to displace.

SOURCE: © 2014 Theology of Work Project, Inc.; Used with permission. (Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.)

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Life Recovery Bible

No commentary available

Luke Chapter 1 verses 26-38

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

BIBLE STUDY

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Sermon Writer

I am the voice crying in the wilderness

Behold, you will bring forth a son

30The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and give birth to a son, and will call his name ‘Jesus’ (Greek: Iesous—a variant of Joshua, a name that means “the Lord saves” or “salvation comes from the Lord”). 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end to his Kingdom.”

“Don’t be afraid, Mary” (v. 30). Zechariah was afraid of his angel (1:12), and these words suggest that Mary is afraid too. Shortly, we will see terrified shepherds in the presence of their angel (2:9-10). Fear is appropriate in God’s presence, but God is merciful to those who fear him, as Mary will remind us in her Magnificat (1:50).

“for you have found favor with God” (v. 30). In the preceding story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, Luke tells of that couple’s religious virtue (1:6-7, 13), but we have none of that here. Nothing is said of Mary’s faith or character—nothing that helps us to understand why God chose her. But, as we have seen with Abram, Isaac, and especially Jacob and David, God chooses whom God chooses. God told Moses “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15; Exodus 33:19b). God is free to choose. God is free to act.

Mary is not chosen because she deserves favor, but is favored because she has been chosen. As Mary will say in response to the angel’s announcement, God brings down the powerful from their throne, and lifts up the lowly (1:52). As Jesus will later say, in God’s realm the last will be first and the first will be last (13:30).

Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and give birth to a son, and will call his name Jesus”(Iesous) (v. 31). Iesous means savior and is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Joshua which means “The Lord saves” or “Salvation comes from the Lord.”

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High” (v. 32a). Luke several times uses the phrase, Most High, to refer to God (1:76; Acts 7:48; 16:17), so Son of the Most High equates to Son of God, a name that that Luke also uses several times for Jesus (1:35; 22:70; Acts 9:20). The devil will use the name, Son of God, in his attempt to tempt Jesus (4:3, 9).

The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end to his Kingdom” (vv. 32b-33). The phrase, “house of Jacob,” refers to the nation Israel (Exodus 19:3; Isaiah 2:5-6; 8:17; 10:20; 14:1; 48:1)

This is a fulfillment of the promise that God made to David, who wanted to build a temple for God. God forbade him to build the temple, but said, “Yahweh will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:11-13). Knowing that David’s son, Solomon, built a temple, we might assume that the promised offspring who “shall build a house” refers to Solomon. However, the full promise was not to be found in Solomon but in Jesus. Solomon built a temple that stood for a few years, but the Christ will build “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

God could have chosen the temple in Jerusalem as the site for this announcement, but did not. Nazareth is a smaller and more ordinary town located far from the temple, and is tainted by the pagan religions that surround it. God chooses a lowly person in a lowly place to contrast with the glory of the Son of the Most High, who will “reign over the house of Jacob forever” (v. 33).

All this is Good News, of course. God is making provision for the salvation of his people. The Good News is that God has a place and plan for every person—even the ordinary person—especially the ordinary person. God calls Mary to be mother of the Lord, but calls every mother to raise her child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

In most cases, we are acutely aware of the ordinariness of our lives. In many cases, our work for God seems less-than-ordinary—handing out church bulletins, driving for a youth group retreat, preparing for a potluck dinner. In some cases, our calling seems higher—teaching a Sunday school class or singing in the choir—but the kids are unruly or someone sings off key and we wonder why we bother. The reality is that each task, low or high, fits into God’s scheme-of-things in ways that we cannot yet understand. It matters less that we execute our tasks with expertise than that we approach them with devotion. God desires, not the skill of our hands, but the love of our hearts. The person who has only the ability to love God and neighbor is all-important in God’s economy.

But we must also acknowledge that favor with God is a two-edged sword. God offers mercy but no life of ease. For Mary, God’s favor didn’t bring prosperity or comfort. Instead, she conceived a child before she was married, fled to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous plan (Matthew 2:13ff), and saw her son die on a cross.

Copyright 2014, Richard Niell Donovan
Exegesis Outline

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Agape Bible Study

Mary of Nazareth: God’s chosen handmaiden

The sixth month

The mention of the sixth month in verse 26 takes us back to the previous verse where Elizabeth conceived and went into seclusion for five months (Lk 1:24). Now it is the sixth month (which is five months as we count and not as the ancients counted without the concept of a zero place-value). The angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary is quite different from his greeting in his earlier visit to the priest Zechariah in Luke 1:13. Notice that Gabriel did not greet Zechariah with the same respect and status as Mary, even by giving Mary a title. The greeting is also unusual in that the angel does not begin with the typical Semitic greeting of shalom (peace) but with chare, translated “hail” or “rejoice.” He continues by announcing Mary’s special status, often translated as “full of grace”; however, the literal translation is “has been graced.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Gabriel's announcement

The angel Gabriel’s announcement in the literal Greek is Chare, kecharitomene [kah-ray kay-kah-ree-toe-may-nay]. Gabriel addressed Mary by a title that was a past perfect participle of the Greek noun charis, meaning “grace”: kecharitomene = “has been graced” (Fitzmyer, Gospel of Luke, page 345). A past perfect participle indicates a condition that existed in the past and continues in the present. Mary has been perfected in and continues in grace. The state of being “graced” in the past tense is never to have been lacking in grace; it is an indication of Mary’s unique conception without original sin (CCC 490-93).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Full of grace

As mentioned, the most common rendering of this phrase is “full of grace.” It is a transliteration of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation of the text. However, while “full of grace” certainly describes Mary’s condition, it is not what the angel expressed in the Greek past perfect participle kecharitomene. “Full of grace” in the Greek would be pleres chariots, as used for Christ in John 1:14 and for St. Stephen in Acts 6:8. Mary’s title, kecharitomene, indicates a state which is beyond filled. In addressing Mary with this title, the angel signifies that she possesses, and has always possessed, a plentitude of divine grace (Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, page 268-69). That Mary was deeply disturbed by the angel’s greeting (Lk 1:29) is evidence that someone of her humble station had received a greeting and addressed by a highly unusual title.

The Fathers and Doctors of the Church taught what Pope Pius IX expressed in the encyclical Ineffabilis Deus: “this singular, solemn and unheard-of greeting showed that all the divine graces reposed in the Mother of God and that she was adorned with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This singular condition meant that Mary was never subject to the curse of original sin and that she was preserved from all sin. The theologically explosive words of the Archangel Gabriel constitute one of the important text sources which reveal the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception” (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus; and Paul VI, Creed of the People of God).

  1. The Catechism of the Church teaches:
  2. CCC 411: “Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.”
  3. CCC 490: “To become the mother of the Savior, Mary ‘was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role’ … In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.”
  4. CCC 491: “Through the centuries the Church has become even more aware that Mary, full of grace through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: ‘The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.'” (quoting Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus; also see CCC 492-493; 722).
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Mary as the daughter of Zion

The angel’s greeting also identifies Mary as the fulfillment of “the daughter of Zion” in the writings of the prophets. God’s holy prophets taught the nation of Israel that it was her destiny to give birth to the promised Redeemer-Messiah, and now Mary, a daughter of Israel/Zion, was asked to fulfill that destiny. The prophet Zephaniah wrote:

Shout for joy, daughter of Zion [chaire thygater Sion], Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice; exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! 15 Yahweh has repealed your sentence; he has turned your enemy away. Yahweh is King among you; Israel, you have nothing more to fear. 16 When that Day comes, the message for Jerusalem will be: Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp. 17 Yahweh your God is there with you, the warrior-Savior (Zeph 3:14-17 NJB). […] = Greek translation. Compare this passage with Luke 1:28-31.

Mary is the fulfillment of Israel’s destiny to produce the Redeemer-Messiah first promised in Genesis 3:15 and St. Luke’s allusion to the “daughter of Zion” prophecy in Zephaniah 3:14-17. “Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person” (CCC 2676).

Luke 1:28-31
(the angel Gabriel speaking)
Zephaniah 3:14-17 NJB & LXX Greek
(God speaking)
Chaire/Rejoice (Lk 1:28) Chaire thygater Sion/Rejoice daughter of Zion (Zeph 3:14)
the Lord is with you (Lk 1:28) Yahweh is King among you (Zeph 3:15b)
Do not be afraid, Mary (Lk 1:30) you have nothing more to fear… Zion have no fear (Zeph 3:15-16)
you will conceive in your womb (Lk 1:31) Yahweh your God is there with you (Zeph 3:17)
Jesus [Hebrew, Yah’shua; Aramaic, Yehoshua = “Yahweh saves”] (Lk 1:31) the warrior-Savior (Zeph 3:17)
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2012

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

You shall name him Jesus

31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.

The angel Gabriel told Mary to name her son “Jesus(the English translation). Both St. John the Baptist and Jesus were divinely named. The ancients believed a name reflected the genuine essence of a person. The Greek text of the New Testament renders Jesus’ name as Iesous, but this was not the name His family and friends called Him. Jesus’ Hebrew name was (in old Hebrew) Yah’shua; in Jesus’ time, His Aramaic name had evolved into Yehoshua. An angel will tell Joseph the significance of the child’s name in a dream: She will give birth to a son, and you must name him Jesus because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins (Mt 1:21). The name Yahshua/Yehoshua was the name of the hero-conquer of the Promised Land, Moses’ successor, Joshua.

The angel’s statement to Joseph in Matthew 1:21 is a wordplay on Jesus’ Hebrew name. His name means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation” or even more literally, “I AM saves” or “I AM salvation” (God defines the Divine Name in Exodus 3:14 as “I AM”). In Hebrew, Jesus’ name is a theophoric name, a compound name that includes the name of a deity. In this case, Yah is a prefix for Yahweh. “Yah” is a short form representing the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, the name God revealed to Moses, and the “I AM” of the burning bush in Exodus 3:13-15. The term “I AM saves” or Yahweh saves” signifies not only Jesus’ mission but the very name of God present in the second person of the Most Holy Trinity made man for the redemption from sin of all of humankind: there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Link between Jesus and Joshua

The Fathers of the Church saw a typological link between Jesus and Joshua, the Old Testament hero who bore the same name. Biblical typology is: “A biblical person, thing, action, or event that foreshadows new truths, new actions, or new events. In the Old Testament, Melchizedek and Jonah are types of Jesus Christ. A likeness must exist between the type and the archetype, but the latter is always greater. Both are independent of each other” (Catholic Dictionary, John A. Hardon, S.J.).

The Catechism teaches: “The Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefiguration’s of what he accomplished ion the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son” (CCC 128). “Christians, therefore, read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself. Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New” (CCC 129, quoting St. Augustine).

The Typology of Joshua and Jesus
Joshua
“Yahweh is salvation”
Jesus
“Yahweh is salvation”
Moses gave Hoshea the name Yah’shua/Joshua. The angel Gabriel told Mary of Nazareth to name God’s Son Yah’shua/Jesus.
His name defined his mission as God’s anointed. His name defined His mission as God’s anointed.
Joshua’s mission was to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land of Canaan. Jesus’ mission was to lead the children of God into the Promised Land of Heaven.
Joshua began his mission by crossing the Jordan River from the east to the west. Jesus began His mission after His baptism by crossing the Jordan River from the east to the west.
Joshua faithfully served God all of his life. Jesus faithfully served God the Father all of His earthly life and beyond.
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2012

Since God alone can offer the gift of salvation and the forgiveness of sin, it is the mission and the destiny of God the eternal Son to save humanity, just as His name suggests: “I AM saves”/”I AM salvation.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

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Catena Aurea

Annotated index of Church Fathers used in commentary

Third Century

  • Origen – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian) – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great” – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople) – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh) (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch) – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.) – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt) – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople) – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre) – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc) – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria

Catena Aurea

4B Advent

The Catena Aurea (Golden Chain) is Thomas Aquinas’ compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels. It seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Church Fathers.

LK 1:26-38

VERSES 26-27

26. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

BEDE. Because either the Incarnation of Christ was to be in the sixth age of the world, or because it was to serve to the fulfilling of the law, rightly in the sixth month of John’s conception was an angel sent to Mary, to tell her that a Saviour should be born. Hence it is said, And in the sixth month, &c. We must understand the sixth month to be March, on the twenty-fifth day of which our Lord is reported to have been conceived, and to have suffered, as also to have been born on the twenty-fifth day of December. But if either the one day we believe to be the vernal equinox, or the other the winter solstice, it happens that with the increase of light He was conceived or born Who lighteneth every man that cometh into the world. But if any one shall prove, that before the time of our Lord’s nativity or conception, light began either to increase, or supersede the darkness, we then say, that it was because John, before the appearance of His coming, began to preach the kingdom of heaven.

BASIL. (in Esai. 6.) The heavenly spirits visit us, not as it seems fit to them, but as the occasion conduces to our advantage, for they are ever looking upon the glory and fulness of the Divine Wisdom; hence it follows, The angel Gabriel was sent.

GREGORY. (Hom. 34, in Evan.) To the virgin Mary was sent, not any one of the angels, but the archangel Gabriel; for upon this service it was meet that the highest angel should come, as being the bearer of the highest of all tidings. He is therefore marked by a particular name, to signify what was his effectual part in the work. For Gabriel is interpreted, “the strength of God.” By the strength of God then was He to be announced Who was coming as the God of strength, and mighty in battle, to put down the powers of the air.

GLOSS. (interlin.) But the place is also added whither he is sent, as it follows, To a city, Nazareth. For it was told that He would come a Nazarite, (i. e. the holy of the holy.)

BEDE. (in Homil. de fest Annunt.) It was a fit beginning for man’s restoration, that an angel should be sent down from God to consecrate a virgin by a divine birth, for the first cause of man’s perdition was the Devil sending a serpent to deceive a woman by the spirit of pride.

AUGUSTINE. (de san. Virg. cap. vi.) To a virgin, for Christ could be born from virginity alone, seeing He could not have an equal in His birth. It was necessary for our Head by this mighty miracle to be born according to the flesh of a virgin, that He might signify that his members were to be born in the spirit of a virgin Church.

PSEUDO-JEROME. (Hieron. vol. xi. 92. De Assumpt.) And rightly an angel is sent to the virgin, because the virgin state is ever akin to that of angels. Surely in the flesh to live beyond the flesh is not a life on earth but in heaven.

CHRYSOSTOM. (sup. Mat. Hom. 4.) The angel announces the birth to the virgin not after the conception, lest she should be thereby too much troubled, but before the conception he addresses her, not in a dream, but standing by her in visible shape. For as great indeed were the tidings she receives, she needed before the issue of the event an extraordinary visible manifestation.

AMBROSE. Scripture has rightly mentioned that she was espoused, as well as a virgin, a virgin, that she might appear free from all connexion with man; espoused, that she might not be branded with the disgrace of sullied virginity, whose swelling womb seemed to bear evident marks of her corruption. But the Lord had rather that men should cast a doubt upon His birth than upon His mother’s purity. He knew how tender is a virgin’s modesty, and how easily assailed the reputation of her chastity, nor did He think the credit of His birth was to be built up by His mother’s wrongs. It follows therefore, that the holy Mary’s virginity was of as untainted purity as it was also of unblemished reputation. Nor ought there, by an erroneous opinion, to be left the shadow of an excuse to living virgins, that the mother of our Lord even seemed to be evil spoken of. But what could be imputed to the Jews, or to Herod, if they should seem to have persecuted an adulterous offspring? And how could He Himself say, I came not to abolish the law, but to fulfil it, (Matt. 5:18.) if He should seem to have had his beginning from a violation of the law, for the issue of an unmarried person is condemned by the law? (Deut. 23:17.) Not to add that also greater credit is given to the words of Mary, and the cause of falsehood removed? For it might seem that unmarried becoming pregnant, she had wished to shade her guilt by a lie; but an espoused person has no reason for lying, since to women child-birth is the reward of wedlock, the grace of the marriage bed. Again, the virginity of Mary was meant to baffle the prince of the world, who, when he perceived her espoused to a man, could cast no suspicion on her offspring.

ORIGEN. For if she had had no husband, soon would the thought have stolen into the Devil’s mind, how she who had known no man could be pregnant. It was right that the conception should be Divine, something more exalted than human nature.

AMBROSE. But still more has it baffled the princes of the world, for the malice of devils soon detects even hidden things, while they who are occupied in worldly vanities, can not know the things of God. But moreover, a more powerful witness of her purity is adduced, her husband, who might both have been indignant at the injury, and revenged the dishonour, if he also had not acknowledged the mystery; of whom it is added, Whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.

BEDE. (in Homil. de Annunt. sup.) Which last applies not only to Joseph, but also to Mary, for the Law commanded that every one should take a wife out of his own tribe or family. It follows, And the virgin’s name was Mary.

BEDE. Maria, in Hebrew, is the star of the sea; but in Syriac it is interpreted Mistress, and well, because Mary was thought worthy to be the mother of the Lord of the whole world, and the light of endless ages.

VERSES 28-29

28. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

AMBROSE. Mark the virgin by her manner of life. Alone in an inner chamber, unseen by the eyes of men, discovered only by an angel; as it is said, And the angel came in unto her. That she might not be dishonoured by any ignoble address, she is saluted by an angel.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Diem Nat. Orat. in Christi.) Far different then to the news formerly addressed to the woman, is the announcement now made to the Virgin. In the former, the cause of sin was punished by the pains of childbirth; in the latter, through gladness, sorrow is driven away. Hence the angel not unaptly proclaims joy to the Virgin, saying, Hail.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer) But that she was judged worthy of the nuptials is attested by his saying, Full of grace. For it is signified as a kind of token or marriage gift of the bridegroom, that she was fruitful in graces. For of the things which he mentions, the one appertains to the bride, the other to the bridegroom.

PSEUDO-JEROME. (Jerome sup.) And it is well said, Full of grace, for to others, grace comes in part; into Mary at once the fulness of grace wholly infused itself. She truly is full of grace through whom has been poured forth upon every creature the abundant rain of the Holy Spirit. But already He was with the Virgin Who sent the angel to the Virgin. The Lord preceded His messenger, for He could not be confined by place Who dwells in all places. Whence it follows, The Lord is with thee.

PSEUDO-AUGUSTINE. (Aug. in Serm. de Annunt. iii. app. 195.) More than with me, for He Himself is in thy heart, He is (made) in thy womb, He fills thy soul, He fills thy womb.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer) But this is the sum of the whole message. The Word of God, as the Bridegroom, effecting an incomprehensible union, Himself, as it were, the same both planting, and being planted, hath moulded the whole nature of man into Himself. But comes last the most perfect and comprehensive salutation; Blessed art thou among women. i. e. Alone, far before all other women; that women also should be blessed in thee, as men are in thy Son; but rather both in both. For as by one man and one woman came at once both sin and sorrow, so now also by one woman and one man hath both blessing and joy been restored, and poured forth upon all.

AMBROSE. But mark the Virgin by her bashfulness, for she was afraid, as it follows; And when she heard, she was troubled, It is the habit of virgins to tremble, and to be ever afraid at the presence of man, and to be shy when he addresses her. Learn, O virgin, to avoid light talking. Mary feared even the salutation of an angel.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (sup.) But as she might be accustomed to these visions, the Evangelist ascribes her agitation not to the vision, but to the things told her, saying, she was troubled at his words. Now observe both the modesty and wisdom of the Virgin; the soul, and at the same time the voice. When she heard the joyful words, she pondered them in her mind, and neither openly resisted through unbelief, nor forthwith lightly complied; avoiding equally the inconstancy of Eve, and the insensibility of Zacharias. Hence it is said, And she cast in her mind what manner of salutation this was, it is not said conception, for as yet she knew not the vastness of the mystery. But the salutation, was there aught of passion in it as from a man to a virgin? or was it not of God, seeing that he makes mention of God, saying, The Lord is with thee.

AMBROSE. She wondered also at the new form of blessing, unheard of before, reserved for Mary alone.

ORIGEN. For if Mary had known that similar words had been addressed to others, such a salutation would never have appeared to her so strange and alarming.

VERSES 30-33

30. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

When the angel saw that she was troubled at this unusual salutation, calling her by her name as if she was well known to him, he tells her she must not fear, as it follows; And the angel said, Fear not, Mary.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Photius.) As if he said, I came not to deceive you, nay rather to bring down deliverance from deception; I came not to rob you of your inviolable virginity, but to open a dwelling-place for the Author and Guardian of thy purity; I am not a servant of the Devil, but the ambassador of Him that destroyeth the Devil. I am come to form a marriage treaty, not to devise plots. So far then was he from allowing her to be harassed by distracting thoughts, lest he should be counted a servant unfaithful to his trust.

CHRYSOSTOM. But he who earns favour in the sight of God has nothing to fear. Hence it follows, For thou hast found favour before God. But how shall any one find it, except through the means of his humility. For God giveth grace to the humble. (James 4:6, 1 Pet. 5:5.)

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (ubi sup.) For the Virgin found favour with God, in that decking her own soul in the bright robes of chastity, she prepared a dwelling-place pleasing to God. Not only did she retain her virginity inviolate, but her conscience also she kept from stain. As many had found favour before Mary, he goes on to state what was peculiar to her. Behold, thou shall conceive in thy womb.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer.) By the word behold, he denotes rapidity and actual presence, implying that with the utterance of the word the conception is accomplished.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Sev. Antiochenus.) Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, that he might shew that our Lord from the very Virgin’s womb, and of our substance, took our flesh upon Him. For the Divine Word came to purify man’s nature and birth, and the first elements of our generation. And so without sin and human seed, passing through every stage as we do, He is conceived in the flesh, and carried in the womb for the space of nine months.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer.) But since it happens also that to the spiritual mind is given in an especial manner to conceive the Divine Spirit, and bring forth the Spirit of salvation, as says the Prophet; therefore he added, And thou shalt bring forth a Son. (Is. 26:18.)

AMBROSE. But all are not as Mary, that when they conceive the word of the Holy Spirit, they bring forth; for some put forth the word prematurely, others have Christ in the womb, but not yet formed.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Orat. in Diem Nat.) While the expectation of child-birth strikes a woman with terror, the sweet mention of her offspring calms her, as it is added, And thou shall call his name Jesus. The coming of the Saviour is the banishing of all fear.

BEDE. Jesus is interpreted Saviour, or Healing.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geom. sup.) And he says, Thou shalt call, not His father shall call, for He is without a father as regards His lower birth, as He is without a mother in respect of the higher.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (de fide ad Theod.) But this name was given anew to the Word in adaptation to His nativity in the flesh; as that prophecy saith, Thou shalt be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord hath named. (Is. 62:2.)

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (sup.) But as this name was common to Him with the successor of Moses, the angel therefore implying that He should not be after Joshua’s likeness, adds, He shall be great. (Josh. 1.)

AMBROSE. It was said also of John, that he shall be great, but of him indeed as of a great man, of Christ, as of the great God. For abundantly is poured forth the power of God; widely the greatness of the heavenly substance extended, neither confined by place, nor grasped by thought; neither determined by calculation, nor altered by age.

ORIGEN. See then the greatness of the Saviour, how it is diffused over the whole world. Go up to heaven, see there how it has filled the heavenly places; carry thy thoughts down to the deep, behold, there too He has descended. If thou seest this, then, in like manner, beholdest thou fulfilled in very deed, He shall be great.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Photius.) The assumption of our flesh does not diminish ought from the loftiness of the Deity, but rather exalts the lowness of man’s nature. Hence it follows, And he shall be called the Son of the Highest. Not, Thou shalt give Him the name, but He Himself shall be called. By whom, but His Father of like substance with Himself? For no one hath known the Son but the Father. (Matt. 11:27.) But He in Whom exists the infallible knowledge of His Son, is the true interpreter as to the name which should be given Him, when He says, This is my beloved Son; (Matt. 17:5.) for such indeed from everlasting He is, though His name was not revealed till now; therefore he says, He shall be called, not shall be made or begotten. For before the worlds He was of like substance with the Father. Him therefore thou shalt conceive; His mother thou shalt become; Him shall thy virgin shrine enclose, Whom the heavens were not able to contain.

CHRYSOSTOM. (non occ.) But since it seems shocking or unworthy to some men that God should inhabit a body, is the Sun, I would ask, the heat whereof is felt by each body that receives its rays, at all sullied as to its natural purity? Much more then does the Sun of Righteousness, in taking upon Himself a most pure body from the Virgin’s womb, escape not only defilement, but even shew forth His own mother in greater holiness.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Severus Antiochenus.) And to make the Virgin mindful of the prophets, he adds, And the Lord God shall give unto him the seat of David, that she might know clearly, that He Who is to be born of her is that very Christ, Whom the prophets promised should be born of the seed of David.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (contra Julian lib. viii.) Not however from Joseph proceeded the most pure descent of Christ. For from one and the same line of connexion had sprung both Joseph and the Virgin, and from this the only-begotten had taken the form of man.

BASIL. (Epist. 236. ad Amphil.) Our Lord sat not on the earthly throne of David, the Jewish kingdom having been transferred to Herod. The seat of David is that on which our Lord reestablished His spiritual kingdom which should never be destroyed. Hence it follows, And he shall reign over the house of Jacob.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. vii. in Matt.) Now He assigns to the present house of Jacob all those who were of the number of the Jews that believed on Him. For as Paul says, They are not all Israel which are of Israel, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

BEDE. Or by the house of Jacob he means the whole Church which either sprang from a good root, or though formerly a wild olive branch, has yet been for a reward of its faith grafted into the good olive tree. (Rom. 11:17.)

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer.) But to reign for ever is of none save God alone; and hence though because of the incarnation Christ is said to receive the seat of David, yet as being Himself God He is acknowledged to be the eternal King. It follows, And, his kingdom shall have no end, not in that He is God, but in that He is man also. Now indeed He has the kingdom of many nations, but finally he shall reign over all, when all things shall be put under Him. (1 Cor. 15:25.)

BEDE. Let Nestorius then cease to say that the Virgin’s Son is only man, and to deny that He is taken up by the Word of God into the unity of the Person. For the Angel when he says that the very same has David for His father whom he declares is called the Son of the Highest, demonstrates the one Person of Christ in two natures. The Angel uses the future tense  (vocabitur, regnabit) not because, as the Heretics say, Christ was not before Mary, but because in the same person, man with God shares the same name of Son.

VERSES 34-35

34. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

AMBROSE. It was Mary’s part neither to refuse belief in the Angel, nor too hastily take unto herself the divine message. How subdued her answer is, compared with the words of the Priest. Then said Mary to the Angel, How shall this be? She says, How shall this be? He answers, Whereby shall I know this? He refuses to believe that which he says he does not know, and seeks as it were still further authority for belief. She avows herself willing to do that which she doubts not will be done, but how, she is anxious to know. Mary had read, Behold, she shall conceive and bear a son. (Is. 7:14.) She believed therefore that it should be, but how it was to take place she had never read, for even to so great a prophet this had not been revealed. So great a mystery was not to be divulged by the mouth of man, but of an Angel.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Orat. in Diem Nat. Christi.) Hear the chaste words of the Virgin. The Angel tells her she shall bear a son, but she rests upon her virginity, deeming her inviolability a more precious thing than the Angel’s declaration. Hence she says, Seeing that I know not a man.

BASIL. (235. Ep. Amph.) Knowledge is spoken of in various ways. The wisdom of our Creator is called knowledge, and an acquaintance with His mighty works, the keeping also of His commandments, and the constant drawing near to Him; and besides these the marriage union is called knowledge, as it is here.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (sup.) These words of Mary are a token of what she was pondering in the secrets of her heart; for if for the sake of the marriage union she had wished to be espoused to Joseph, why was she seized with astonishment when the conception was made known unto her? seeing in truth she might herself be expecting at the time to become a mother according to the law of nature. But because it was meet that her body being presented to God as an holy offering-should be kept inviolate, therefore she says, Seeing that I know not a man. As if she said, Notwithstanding that thou who speakest art an Angel, yet that I should know a man is plainly an impossible thing. How then can I be a mother, having no husband? For Joseph I have acknowledged as my betrothed.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer.) But mark, how the Angel solves the Virgin’s doubts, and shews to her the unstained marriage and the unspeakable birth. And the Angel answered, and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 49 in Gen.) As if he said, Look not for the order of nature in things which transcend and overpower nature. Dost thou say, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? Nay rather, shall it happen to thee for this very reason, that thou hast never known a husband. For if thou hadst, thou wouldest not have been thought worthy of the mystery, not that marriage is unholy, but virginity more excellent. It became the common Lord of all both to take part with us, and to differ with us in His nativity; for the being born from the womb, He shared in common with us, but in that He was born without cohabitation, He was exalted far above us.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Orat. in Diem Nat.) O blessed is that womb which because of the overflowing purity of the Virgin Mary has drawn to itself the gift of life! For in others scarcely indeed shall a pure soul obtain the presence of the Holy Spirit, but in her the flesh is made the receptacle of the Spirit.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Lib. de Vita Moysis.) For the tables of our nature which guilt had broken, the true Lawgiver has formed anew to Himself from our dust without cohabitation, creating a body capable of taking His divinity, which the finger of God hath carved, that is to say, the Spirit coming upon the Virgin.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (in Diem Natal.) Moreover, the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Christ is the power of the most high King, who by the coming of the Holy Spirit is formed in the Virgin.

GREGORY. (18 Moral. c. 20. super Job 27:21.) By the term overshadowing, both natures of the Incarnate God are signified. For shadow is formed by light and matter. But the Lord by His Divine nature is light. Because then immaterial light was to be embodied in the Virgin’s womb, it is well said unto her, The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, that is, the human body in thee shall receive an immaterial light of divinity. For this is said to Mary for the heavenly refreshing of her soul.

BEDE. Thou shalt conceive then not by the seed of man whom thou knowest not, but by the operation of the Holy Spirit, with which thou art filled. There shall be no flame of desire in thee when the Holy Spirit shall overshadow thee.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Orat. in Diem Nat.) Or he says, overshadow thee, because as a shadow takes its shape from the character of those bodies which go before it, so the signs of the Son’s Deity will appear from the power of the Father. (non occ. in Greg. Nyss.). For as in us a certain life-giving power is seen in the material substance, by which man is formed; so in the Virgin, has the power of the Highest in like manner, by the life-giving Spirit, taken from the Virgin’s body a fleshly substance inherent in the body to form a new man. Hence it follows, Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee.

ATHANASIUS. (Ep. ad Epictetum.) For we confess that which then was taken up from Mary to be of the nature of man and a most real body, the very same also according to nature with our own body. For Mary is our sister, seeing we have all descended from Adam.

BASIL. (Lib. de Spirit. Sanct. c. v.) Hence also, St. Paul says, God sent forth his Son, born not (through a woman) but of a woman. For the words through a woman might convey only a notion of birth as a passing through, but when it is said, of a woman, (Gal. 4:4.) there is openly declared a communion of nature between the son and the parent.

GREGORY. (18 Moral. c. 52. super Job 28:19.) To distinguish His holiness from ours, Jesus is stated in an especial manner to be born holy. For we although indeed made holy, are not born so, for we are constrained by the very condition of our corruptible nature to cry out with the Prophet, Behold, I was conceived in iniquity. (Ps. 51:5.) But He alone is in truth holy, who was not conceived by the cementing of a fleshly union, nor as the heretics rave, one person in His human nature, another in His divine; not conceived and brought forth a mere man, and afterwards by his merits, obtained that He should be God, but the Angel announcing and the Spirit coming, first the Word in the womb, afterwards within the womb the Word made flesh. Whence it follows, Shall be called the Son of God.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Victor Presbyter.) But observe, how the Angel has declared the whole Trinity to the Virgin, making mention of the Holy Spirit, the Power, and the Most High, for the Trinity is indivisible.c

VERSES 36-38

36. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

CHRYSOSTOM. (49 in Gen.) Seeing that his previous words had overcome the mind of the virgin, the angel drops his discourse to a humbler subject, persuading her by reference to sensible things. Hence he says, And, behold, Elisabeth thy cousin, &c. Mark the discretion of Gabriel; he did not remind her of Sarah, or Rebecca, or Rachel, because they were examples of ancient times, but he brings forward a recent event, that he might the more forcibly strike her mind. For this reason also he noticed the age, saying, She also hath conceived a son in her old age; and the natural infirmity also. As it follows, And this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For not immediately at the beginning of Elisabeth’s conception did he make this announcement, but after the space of six months, that the swelling of her womb might confirm its truth.

GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Carm. 18. de Geneal. Christi.) But some one will ask, How is Christ related to David, since Mary sprang from the blood of Aaron, the angel having declared Elisabeth to be her kinswoman? But this was brought about by the Divine counsel, to the end that the royal race might be united to the priestly stock; that Christ, Who is both King and Priest, might be descended from both according to the flesh. For it is written, that Aaron, the first High Priest according to the law, took from the tribe of Judah for his wife Elisabeth, the daughter of Aminadab. (Exod. 6:23.) And observe the most holy administration of the Spirit, in ordering that the wife of Zacharias should be called Elisabeth, so bringing us back to that Elisabeth whom Aaron married.

BEDE. So it was then, lest the virgin should despair of being able to bear a son, that she received the example of one both old and barren about to bring forth, in order that she might learn that all things are possible with God, even those which seem to be opposed to the order of nature. Whence it follows, For there shall be no word (verbum) impossible with God.

CHRYSOSTOM. For the Lord of nature can do all things as He will, Who executes and disposes all things, holding the reins of life and death.

AUGUSTINE. (contra Faust. l. xxvi. c. 5.) But whoever says, “If God is omnipotent, let Him cause those things which have been done to have not been done,” does not perceive that he says, “Let Him cause those things which are true, in that very respect in which they are true to be false.” For He may cause a thing not to be which was, as when He makes a man who began to be by birth, not to be by death. But who can say that He makes not to be that which no longer is in being? For whatever is past is no longer in being. But if aught can happen to a thing, that thing is still in being to which any thing happens, and if it is, how is it past? Therefore that is not in being which we have truly said has been, because the truth is, in our opinions, not in that thing which no longer is. But this opinion God can not make false; and we do not so call God omnipotent as supposing also that He could die. He plainly is alone truly called omnipotent, who truly is, and by whom alone that is, whatever in any wise exists, whether spirit or body.

AMBROSE. Behold now the humility, the devotion of the virgin. For it follows, But Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord. She calls herself His handmaid, who is chosen to be His mother, so far was she from being exalted by the sudden promise. At the same time also by calling herself handmaid, she claimed to herself in no other way the prerogative of such great grace than that she might do what was commanded her. For about to bring forth One meek and lowly, she was bound herself to shew forth lowliness. As it follows, Be it unto me according to thy word. You have her submission, you see her wish. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, signifies the readiness of duty. Be it unto me according to thy word, the conception of the wish.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer.) Some men will highly extol one thing, some another, in these words of the virgin. One man, for example, her constancy, another her willingness of obedience; one man her not being tempted by the great and glorious promises of the great archangel; another, her self-command in not giving an instant assent, equally avoiding both the heedlessness of Eve and the disobedience of Zacharias. But to me the depth of her humility is an object no less worthy of admiration

GREGORY. (sup.) Through an ineffable sacrament of a holy conception and a birth inviolable, agreeable to the truth of each nature, the same virgin was both the handmaid and mother of the Lord.

BEDE. Having received the consent of the virgin, the angel soon returns heavenward, as it follows, And the angel departed from her.

EUSEBIUS. (vel Geometer.) Not only having obtained what he wished, but wondering at her virgin beauty, and the ripeness of her virtue.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000Commentary in public domain.
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