The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on Luke 1:26-38

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 19, 2010

Text in red represent my additional notes.

Luk 1:26  And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth,

26. And in the sixth month; i.e., after the conception of Elizabeth. Hence John the Baptist was just six months older than our Lord.

Nazareth. See on Matthew 2:23.

In the sixth month has been taken, along with other time references and the mention of Gabriel-in the Lucan Infancy Narrative, as suggesting an allusion to the “Seventy weeks of years” prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27. See here for more details.

Luk 1:27  To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin’s name was Mary.

To a virgin espoused. From these words, some conclude that the Blessed Virgin was already really married to Joseph; others that she was only promised in marriage by her family. The latter opinion would seem more probable because otherwise she would have been actually living with St. Joseph, as was customary with those really married. See on Matthew 1:18.

Actually, the Jewish concept of espousal and marriage differs considerably from ours. As I noted in some comments on added to Maldonado’s commentary on Matt 1:18-24~The Jewish marriage process was twofold: (1) the espousal period, which could last up to a year.  During this period the couple lived apart but were still considered to be husband and wife; it is for this reason that Matthew can speak of Mary in verse 18 as “espoused” (NAB, “betrothed”) and also refer to Joseph as her husband in verses 16 and 19; and call Mary “thy wife” (NAB “your wife’) in verse 20. (2) the ratification of the marriage took place when the groom went to the house where his s=espoused wife was living and brought her back into his own home. This is what is being referred to when the angel says fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife (see verses 20 & 24). It is this process which is behind the marriage imagery of Matt 25:1-13; Jn 3:29-30.

Of the house of David. St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin were
both of the family of David. Our Lord was therefore truly”the Son of David” on his mother’s side.

Mary. This name is derived from the Hebrew “Miriam,” which signifies “Star of the Sea,” or, in Chaldaic, “Lady.” These represent common interpretations, however, we do not in fact know with certainty what the name means.

Luk 1:28  And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

And the angel being come in. It is the common opinion that our Blessed Lady was rapt in devout prayer when the angel entered her room.

Full of grace. This is the Catholic translation of the Greek, κεχαριτωμενη, and is in conformity with the authority of the Latin Fathers, and of the ancient Syriac and Arabic versions of this passage. Protestants widely differ as to the meaning of the word. The Authorized Version translates it, “highly favored.” Literally,the term would seem to mean “highly pleasing,” or “highly
favored,” or “singularly endowed.” Since, therefore, it is grace alone which renders one highly pleasing in the sight of God, the translation “full of grace” would seem to be most correct. Just as Solomon was called “The Wise One,” and our Lord, “The Just One,” so here our Blessed Lady is addressed as “The Highly favored One,” i.e., favored above all others.

The Greek κεχαριτωμενη (Kecharitomene) is a present passive participle. As a present participle it refers to something which took place in the past, the effects of which continue. As passive in refers to something Mary has received.  Since the word is based upon charis (grace), or, to be more exact, on charitoo (made graced), and since the word is passive, perhaps a better translation into English would be “filled with grace.”

The Lord is with thee. By “Lord,” we are here to understand YHWH (God); not our Lord, whom as yet our Blessed Lady had not conceived.

Blessed art thou among women. These words, although found in most MSS., are wanting in the Vatican and a few other ancient MSS. Our Blessed Lady is here compared, not with the whole of mankind, but with all other women (but see  Lk 1:48).

Luk 1:29  Who having heard, was troubled at his saying and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.

Who having heard, who rather “having seen”(ιδουσα) . It was a shock to our Lady’s modesty to see the angel in her room in the form of a young man. It was likewise a shock to her humility to hear the words of praise which he addressed to her.

Was troubled, because she was most probably only promised in marriage by her family. Her heart and her own final promise of marriage had never been given, nor perhaps had she intended to give them to any man.

Father Callan writes: It was a shock to our Lady’s modesty to see the angel in her room in the form of a young man. In fact, the text never describes what the angel looked like. He further writes: It was likewise a shock to her humility to hear the words of praise which he addressed to her.  “Likewise?” In fact the text doesn’t attribute our Lady’s being “troubled” with the sight of the angel at all, rather, it is specifically and only his “saying” that “troubled” her. This stands in contrast to Zechariah who was troubled when he saw the angel (Lk 1:12) and, also, with the shepherds (Lk 2:9, implied), and the women at the tomb (Lk 24:4-5).

The Greek word ιδουσα usually refers to simple sight, however, it can also denote perception or recognition of some kind. Mary saw (recognized) that an angel-a messenger from God-appeared before her and on this basis was “troubled at his saying,” this did not deter her however, for she “thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be”. The Greek διελογιζετο (“thought with herself”) implies an intense, prolonged reflection. Here is how Thayer’s Greek Dictionary defines it: to bring together different reasons, to reckon up the reasons, to reason, revolve in one’s mind, deliberate. Except for here and in Lk 3:15, the word is always used by the third evangelist to designate something negatively done (see Luke 5:21; 5:22; 12:17; 20:14).

Luk 1:30  And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.

Fear not, Mary. The angel now speaks to her more familiarly, calling her by her name, which shows that she was no stranger to him, and he assures her that no evil can befall her since she is under divine protection.

Luk 1:31  Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus.

Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb. The Blessed Virgin knew that the Prophet Isaias had foretold, seven hundred years before, that the Messiah should be conceived by a virgin (Isa 7:14), but how this should be, she did not know.

Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Josue; it means Saviour. Jesus was to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb. Some see here and elsewhere in the annunciation an allusion to the Prophet Zephaniah. In Zeph 3:14 we read: Give praise, O daughter of Sion: shout, O Israel: be glad, and rejoice with all thy heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. “Rejoice” is the very first word the angel spoke to our Lady when he greeted her (translated “Hail” in Lk 1:28).  Zeph 3:15 reads: The Lord hath taken away thy judgment, he hath turned away thy enemies: the king of Israel, the Lord, is in the midst of thee, thou shalt fear evil no more. Mary herself is told not to fear (Lk 1:30), and in her canticle she celebrates God’s overthrow of those hostile to his people (Lk 1:51-52). The words of Zephaniah here translated as the Lord is in the midst of thee is, literally, “the Lord is in your womb” calling to mind Lk 1:31.

Luk 1:32 He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.
Luk 1:33 And of his kingdom there shall be no end.

He shall be great, — (a) because He shall be called, and shall be in reality, the Son of God; (b) because He shall be the everlasting ruler of the people of God.

Throne of David his father. Our Lord was to be the descendant of David, and He was to be David’s successor and the spiritual ruler of the chosen people of God. (see 2 Sam 7:12-16, Isa 9:5-6).

In the house of Jacob forever. Our Lord was to exercise dominion, not over a few tribes of Israel, as did some of the descendants of Jacob, but over all of the twelve tribes, and over all those who in future should be aggregated to His Church.

Luk 1:34  And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?

How shall this be done, etc. By these words the Blessed Virgin did not express any doubt, as we know from verse 45; she wished to know only the manner in which the angel’s announcement was to be fulfilled.

Because I know not man. From these words, expressed in the present tense, the Fathers and commentators infer that the Blessed Virgin had made a vow of perpetual virginity. The use of the present tense seems to embrace all time, past, present, and future. See above, verse 29.

Luk 1:35  And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, etc. The angel now assures our  Lady that the Holy Ghost, without any detriment to her virginity, shall miraculously cause her to conceive a son. This work is appropriated to the Holy Ghost, because it is a work of love. The external works (opera ad extra) of the Holy Trinity are differently appropriated to the different persons; thus, power is appropriated to the Father, wisdom to the Son, love to the Holy Ghost. The appropriations are founded on the different relations to one another of the three Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity.

It is to be noted that this and the preceding verse afford a proof of the Virgin Birth of our Lord. Cf. on Matthew 1:18-25.

The holy; i.e., the holy offspring, “which shall be born,” —literally, “which is born ” (γεννωμενον); i.e., which is just about to be conceived. The phrase
“of thee” is wanting in most Greek MSS.

The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. See Acts 1:8~But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you.

Luk 1:36  And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren.

Thy cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was of the daughters of Aaron and Mary was of the tribe of Juda; but since they are cousins, it must be that one of Elizabeth’s ancestors, on the maternal side, was married to a man of the tribe of Juda.

She also hath conceived, etc. The angel spoke these words to Mary, not because the latter had doubted, but only to strengthen her faith. Just as Elizabeth, who by age was sterile, had become fecund by the gift of God, so should Mary be able to conceive a son without any intervention on the part of man.

That is called barren; i.e., who is commonly known to be barren.

Luk 1:37  Because no word shall be impossible with God.

No word; i.e., no promise of God is impossible of fulfillment;no thing is beyond God’s power. The words call to mind the announcement of the birth of Isaac in Genesis 18:14~Is there any thing hard to God?

Luk 1:38  And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord. As soon as Mary understood that she was to conceive without detriment to her virginity, she at once humbly bowed to the will of God; and at that moment she conceived her Divine Son.

Be it done unto me according to thy word.  Like the previous verse, this one also calls to mind the birth of Isaac. In Genesis 21:1 the narrator describes the birth of Isaac in these words: and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.

5 Responses to “Father Callan’s Commentary on Luke 1:26-38”

  1. […] Father Callan on Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38. Available 12:05 AM EST. […]

  2. […] Father Callan on today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38). Previously posted. See note above accompanying the “Readings” link. […]

  3. […] Father Callan on Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38). […]

  4. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Luke 1:26-33. On 26-38. […]

  5. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38). […]

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