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4th SUNDAY IN ADVENT (Cycle A)

Readings:
Isaiah 7:10-14
Psalm 24:1-7
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-24

Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

The two Testaments reveal God's divine plan for humanity, and that is why we read and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: The Virgin Birth of the Davidic Messiah
God first promised the coming of the Messiah-Redeemer at the darkest moment in the beginning of salvation history when our original parents, Adam and Eve, were deprived of the grace of perfect fellowship with their divine Father and Creator.  God both cursed the serpent, Satan (Rev 12:9), who orchestrated the fall of mankind and gave the hope of mankind's future redemption (Gen 3:15).  The Lord foretold that one day a man, born from the "seed of the woman," would come to undo the work of Satan and restore humanity to the perfection of grace in a covenant fellowship with the Lord God (1 Jn 3:8). 

God moved forward that divine plan in the 10th century BC when He made an eternal covenant with His servant, King David, promising that his throne and his kingdom would last forever (2 Sam 7:16; 23:5; 2 Chr 13:5; Sir 45:25; Sir 47:11/13).  He repeated this promise through the prophets that the Redeemer-Messiah would come from David's lineage to rule an eternal kingdom (i.e., Is 11:1-5; Jer 23:5-6; Ez 34:23-24; Zec 3, 8; 6:12).   In our First Reading, the 8th century BC Prophet Isaiah told Davidic descendant King Ahaz that a virgin would the one to bear a son called "God-with-us" (Is 7:14).  It was a prophecy repeated by St. Matthew, in our Gospel Reading, who applied the prophecy to Mary of Nazareth and her son, Jesus (Mt 1:22-23).   It was God's plan that the obedience of faith of the Virgin Mary, in submitting herself to the will of God and His plan for mankind's salvation, should undo the virgin Eve's sin of disobedience that first doomed mankind.

In our Second Reading, St. Paul tells us that Jesus is the promised "King of Glory," that God "promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures" (Rom 1:2-4).  It is the "good news" of the gift of salvation that was promised by the prophets (Is 49:9; 52:7; 61:1) that Jesus has made possible through His precious blood in His sacrificial death and in His glorious Resurrection.  It is also the message of salvation Jesus instructed His Apostles to preach to the entire world, the "good news" of the Kingdom of Heaven and the gift of man's salvation through God the Son (Mt 28:19-20; Acts 1:6-8).

The Responsorial Psalm honors the invisible Divine King, present in the people's liturgy of worship at the Jerusalem Temple.  It recalls a celebration that should be a reminder to us that, in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, our Divine King is also invisibly present.  We confess our sins and offer our lives as a holy sacrifice along with our offerings of bread and wine that are miraculously transformed into the reality of Christ's Body and Blood.  We "enter in" to this mystery as we approach the altar in the summit of the Mass.  It is then that the promise of our eternal blessings and the salvation of our souls becomes a reality in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, the "God-is-with-us" who came to us through the obedience of the Virgin Mary, and who "takes away the sins of the world."

The First Reading Isaiah 7:10-14 ~ The Prophecy of the Virgin Birth of the King of Glory
10 [Again] the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: 11 "Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!"  12 But Ahaz answered "I will not ask!  I will not tempt the LORD!"  13 Then Isaiah said: "Listen, O house of David!  Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?  14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel."

Isaiah, the prophet of God, went to see King Ahaz of Judah (a descendant of the great King David) and took with him, by God's command, his young son Shear-jashub (Is 7:3).  Ahaz, who ruled the Southern Kingdom of Judah from 735-715 BC, was deeply troubled when the kings of Aram (Syria) and the Northern Kingdom of Israel threatened him because he refused to enter into an alliance with them against the Assyrians (2 Kng 16).  It was the intention of Ahaz's enemies to appoint another man to be king in his place, despite God's covenant promise to David that his throne was to be secure through his descendants (2 Sam 7:11b-16; 23:5).  God sent to assure Ahaz that his enemies' plan would not succeed, that his throne was secure, and that his faith must remain firm (Is 7:4-9). 

Isaiah told Ahaz to ask Yahweh for a miraculous sign confirming the prophecy (Is 7:10-11).  The request for a sign is to have no limits and will prove God's plan to save the royal house of David.  Since it is God's holy prophet speaking the words of God, the command to ask for a sign comes directly from God.  However, Ahaz expresses a false piety and hypocritically refuses to ask for a sign because he prefers to depend on the might of his Assyrian ally to protect him rather than God (Is 7:11-12).

13 Then Isaiah said: "Listen, O house of David!  Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?  14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel."
God's prophet rebukes Ahaz and gives the sign without the king's request.  The miraculous sign God gives through His prophet promises the preservation of the house of David (lineage of the Davidic kings) in the prophecy that "the virgin" [ha almah] will conceive and bear a son called Immanuel, meaning "God-is-with-us."  This cannot be a wife of the king since she is not a virgin, nor can the prophecy even predict a future Davidic bride giving birth since a child being born within the royal household is hardly a miracle.  In addition, no Davidic heir who had a role in Judah's history was named "Immanuel/Emmanuel," nor could any princeling claim the title "God is with us" during the reign of the Davidic kings of the nation of Judah. 

Today, Jewish scholars translate ha almah as "young woman" instead of "virgin," but in the Septuagint translation that predates the Jewish Masoretic text, the word is unambiguously translated in Greek as parthenos, meaning "a woman who has never had sexual relations with a man, a virgin."  In St. Matthew's Gospel, he announces the fulfillment of this prophecy of a virgin birth in Mary of Nazareth, the virgin who gave birth to the promised Davidic king and Messiah, Jesus Christ, whose rule over the Kingdom of God is eternal.  Writing about the angel's announcement to St. Joseph that he should wed Mary because she has conceived a son by the Holy Spirit who will save his people from their sins (Mt 1:18-21), St. Matthew links the event to Isaiah's prophecy:  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord has said through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us" (Mt 1:22-23; see today's Gospel reading).  At Jesus' Ascension, He who is both fully God and fully man, affirms His title "God is with us" when He tells His disciples: And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Mt 28:20; underlining added for emphasis).

Responsorial Psalm 24:1-7 ~ Waiting for the King of Glory (a psalm of David)
The response is: "Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory."

1 The LORD'S are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it.  2 For he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.
Response:
3 Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD? Or who may stand in his holy place?  4 He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.
Response:
5 He shall receive a blessing from the LORD, a reward from God his savior.  7 Such is the race that seeks for him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
Response:

This psalm is attributed to King David.  The congregation sang it at a ceremony honoring the entry of Yahweh, the God of all Creation, invisibly enthroned above the Ark of the Covenant and followed by a procession of the faithful, into the city of the Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:1-15, 17-19).  The people following the Ark of the Covenant in the procession ascended "God's mountain" that is Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem.  The people affirm their fidelity and their state of ritual purity before entering into worship.  It was a sanctified and consecrated people that witnessed the Presence of God, the Divine King, in the liturgy of worship and received the promise of a future eternal salvation.  

In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, our Divine King is also invisibly present.  We also confess our sins and offer our lives as a holy sacrifice along with our offerings of bread and wine that are miraculously transformed into the reality of Christ's Body and Blood.  We also "enter in" to this mystery on God's holy mountain as we approach the altar in the summit of the Mass, only if we have confessed our sins and are in a state of grace.  But the promise of our eternal blessings and the salvation of our souls is now a reality in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, the "God is with us" who takes away the sins of the world.

The Second Reading Romans 1:1-7 ~ Jesus is the Promised King of Glory
1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God, 2 which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 the Gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, 4 but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.  5 Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, 6 among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; 7 to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the introduction of his letter to the Christians of Rome, St. Paul identifies himself and presents his credentials in three ways: He identifies himself as (1) "a servant/slave," as (2) "one called to be an apostle", and as (3) one "set apart for God's Gospel."  The title "servant" or "slave" is also used by other Jewish-Christian New Covenant leaders: Sts Peter (2 Pt 1:1), James (Jam1:1), and Jude (Jude 1:1) in the introductions to their letters to the Catholic [universal] Church and also by St. John in Revelation 1:1 and 15:3.  However, this designation also links Paul and the other "servants/ slaves" of Jesus Christ to the sacramental nature of the ecclesial ministry and its character of service which is entirely dependent on the Son of God who gives His servants their mission and authority.  These "servants" of the Christ serve in the image of Him who, as St. Paul will write to the Christians of Philippi:  ...emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet. Even to accepting death, death on a cross" (Phil 2:7-8; also see CCC 876-7).

Paul also presents his credentials as one who is "called to be an apostle" as he will write to the Corinthians that he was called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:1).  The Greek word apostolos means "one who is sent."  An apostle is an emissary or envoy sent with his master's authority to deliver a message.  Paul considers himself to be an apostle because he was personally chosen by Jesus in his Damascus Road conversion and was appointed to be a missionary to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13; Acts 26:27; 1 Cor 9:2; Gal 1:16; 2:8; 1 Tim 2:7).  This divine appointment, Paul believes, elevates him as a true apostle of Christ and makes him equal to the other Apostles who had also seen and talked with Jesus before and after His Resurrection (Acts 10:41).  Lastly, he identifies himself as having been set apart for the service of the Gospel.  Paul was "set apart" by Christ Himself when he yielded his life by accepting Jesus as the Messiah and his Savior.  His old life was over, and his new life in Christ began.  He is also "set apart" in his mission to the Gentiles, the mission to which Jesus personally called Paul (Acts 9:15-16; 22:21). 

2 which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures ...
When Paul refers to the "Gospel" in verse 1, he is not speaking of the four Gospels written by the Apostles Matthew and John, or the Gospels written by Peter's disciple John Mark or Paul's disciple Luke.  In Romans 1:16, Paul tells us that the Gospel is God's power for the salvation of everyone who has faith.  It is the "good news" (what "gospel" means in Greek) of the gift of salvation that was promised by the prophets (Is 49:9; 52:7; 61:1) that Jesus has made possible through His precious blood in His sacrificial death and His glorious Resurrection.  It is the message of salvation Jesus instructed His Apostles to preach to the entire world, the "good news" of the Kingdom of Heaven and the gift of man's salvation through God the Son (Mt 28:19-20; Acts 1:6-8).

When St. Paul refers to what God promised long ago through his prophets in verse 2, he is referring to:

In 1 Peter 1:10-12, St Peter also writes about the promise of our salvation revealed to the Old Testament prophets: This salvation was the subject of the search and investigation of the prophets who spoke of the grace you were to receive, searching out the time and circumstances for which the Spirit of Christ, bearing witness in them, was revealing the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow them.  It was revealed to them that it was for your sake and not their own that they were acting as servants delivering the message which has now been announced to you by those who preached to you the Gospel through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. 

In addition to this understanding of the "gospel" message of salvation, the Vatican II document, Dei Verbum, 7 defines the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is His work of salvation; it is a gift freely offered to all men and women of all the ages of mankind (for more information on fulfillment of prophecy see the study on St. Paul's Letter to the Romans: Introduction 2; and CCC# 64 & 702).

3 the Gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, 4 but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.  5 Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, 6 among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; 7 to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.
Verses 3-6 express the focus of Paul's theology, and some scholars believe these verses may be a very early Christian profession of faith.  In any event, these verses highlight the theology of Paul in all his letters which is centered on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ who is the promised "son of David" and the crucified and resurrected Savior of the world. 

In verse 5, Paul testifies that the grace given to him to preach God's Gospel of salvation has come from Jesus Christ Himself to win the "obedience of faith" from among the nations of the world.  St. Paul identifies "obedience of faith" as our first moral obligation.  The root word for "obedience" is the word "obey."  To obey, from the Latin ob-audire, means "to hear" or "to listen" and "to comply or submit." The inspired writers of Sacred Scripture defined the virtue of "faith": 

For Paul, there is a sacramental unity in obedience and faith.  Paul is teaching that there is no opposition between faith and obedience but that they are two sides of the same coin.  It is the purpose of Paul's apostolic mission to bring about in his hearers a message that strengthens an active and living "obedience of faith."  It is a faith expressed in obedience to the teachings of Christ through His Church; it is an obedience that is pleasing to God and allows the Christian, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to lead a holy, saintly life.  A holy God and divine Father deserves holy and obedient children (Lev 11:45).  It is the same call to "obedience of faith" that every homily we hear calls us to fulfill and to which every celebration of the Eucharist empowers and strengthens us through God's grace.  Paul will revisit the necessity of "obedience" and "faith" as the letter continues.  In fact, Paul opens the letter in 1:5 with the call to "obedience of faith" and closes the letter in 16:26 with the same plea: ...as the eternal God commanded, to be made known to all the nations, so that they obey in faith...  See CCC # 143; 153-165; 2087 and Rom 16:26

7 to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.
In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel, called by God at Mt. Sinai, enjoyed the title "holy people of God" (Ex: 19:5-6).  Paul acknowledges in verse 7 that the faithful Christians of Rome are also called by God through faith and baptism to be God's holy people.  They are the New Israel of the New Covenant, just as the Old Israel had the honor of being called God's holy people in obedience to Covenant centered in Jerusalem.  Now the Christians of Rome, in the world's center of the New Covenant, and all professing Christians deserve this same title.  See CCC# 877; 2013-14

7b Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul completes his greeting with his typical formula "grace to you and peace."   It is a greeting common in all his letters with the exception of the Letter to the Hebrews which is believed by many scholars to be a homily Paul delivered to the Church in Jerusalem on his last visit (for other similar greetings see 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:2; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2b; 1 Thes 1:1b; 2 Thes 1:2; 1 Tim 1:2; Tit 1:4; Philem 1:3).

The typical Greek greeting was chairein [khah-ee-ren], meaning simply "greetings."  Bible scholars have suggested that Paul substituted chairein "greetings" with charis [khar'-ece], meaning "favor" in the Greek but with the distinctive meaning and understanding of the Hebrew word hen, which means "grace," a gift of God.  And then to this greeting Paul added the Greek word for "peace," eirene [i-ray'-nay], which reflects the typical Semitic greeting, shalom, "peace" (see 2 Mac 1:1), yielding a combined Gentile and Jewish greeting.  However, Paul's Jewish audience may have recognized in his greeting an of echo the ancient priestly blessing for God's holy people Israel repeated twice daily at the conclusion of every liturgical ceremony at the Temple: May Yahweh bless you and keep you.  May Yahweh let his face shine on you and be gracious to you [give you grace].  May Yahweh show you his face and bring you peace (Num 6:24-26).  If Paul does intend to echo the priestly blessing, then this is an ecclesial blessing and "grace" represents God's covenantal grace revealed in Jesus Christ, and "peace" is the deep and abiding peace that comes from the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.   It is the grace and peace that the Church prays for in the life of every Christian, especially in this season of Advent.

The Gospel of Matthew 1:18-24 ~ Jesus is the Promised Emmanuel of Isaiah's Prophecy
18 Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  19 Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."  22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."  24 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife into his home. 

In verse 18, St. Matthew uses Jesus' royal title "Christos/Messiah" a fourth time (see 1:1, 16, 17, 18).  There can be no doubt for the reader that Matthew is presenting Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Davidic Messiah, a claim support by Matthew's genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:1-17).  St. Matthew begins the story of Jesus' birth with Joseph of Nazareth who was betrothed to Mary when he discovered she was pregnant. 

A betrothal was not like a modern engagement.  According to the customs of the times, a couple became "betrothed" with the payment of the bride price (paid by the groom) and the dowry (paid by the girl's family), and the marriage contract was signed.  The couple did not live together until the groom made preparations to bring a wife into his home.  When all preparations were completed, the groom brought the bride to his house, and friends and family celebrated in a seven-day wedding ceremony (Gen 29:27; Judg 14:12), after which the couple began to live together.  However, in the interim period, they were both legally and morally bound to each other under the specific laws enumerated in the Deuteronomic Code (see Dt 22:23-27).  These laws presupposed that a betrothed couple was already married in a legal sense.  When Mary was discovered to be with child, she was in a precarious position.  If Joseph repudiated her, no other "righteous" Jewish man would marry her, and she would be ridiculed and shunned by the community.  It was necessary in God's plan for Mary and her son to receive the protection of a legal marriage.

19 Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
There are two theories as to why Joseph decided to divorce Mary.  One theory is that Joseph already knew the child she carried was the Messiah and did not feel he was worthy enough for the honor of fathering the Messiah-king.  The second theory is that he believed Mary had committed adultery but wanted to spare the ridicule of the community by setting her aside without publically charging her in the Jewish Law Court.  The key to understanding the passage is answered by this question: How would a Jew define the term "righteous man"?  For every observant Jew, a "righteous man" was a man who lived in strict obedience to the Law.  As a "righteous man," Joseph could not marry someone who appeared to have so grossly violated the Law of Moses.  The only way Joseph could be released from the obligation to take Mary as his wife was by an act of repudiation.

An answer to Joseph's dilemma came to him in a dream when the Angel of the Lord revealed God's plan to Joseph: Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."  Notice that the angel acknowledges Joseph as an heir of King David. 

The angel's announcement follows the same pattern as the announcement of other special births of sons in the Bible.  In the Old Testament, there is a pattern found in the births of Isaac (Gen 17:19), Solomon (1 Chr 22:9-10), Josiah (1Kng 13:3), and Isaiah's prophecy of the birth of the virgin's son (Is 7:14-17).  In the New Testament, the pattern is present in the announcement of the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:20-21 and Luke 1:31-33.  Each of these birth announcements follows this pattern:

  1. The announcement begins with the word "behold."
  2. The child is named.
  3. The child's identity is revealed.

The angle then makes three significant statements to reassure Joseph that he should take Mary as his wife:

  1. Joseph is to finalize his marriage with Mary by taking her into his home.
  2. Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Joseph is to name the child Jesus.

21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
According to the customs of the times, if a man named a child born from his wife or a woman he had been intimate with, he was declaring the child legally his.  The angel's command leaves no doubt in Joseph's mind that he is to be the child's legal, human father.  The Hebrew name he is commanded to give the child is Yehoshua (Joshua), or Yahshua in proto-Hebrew and Yehoshua in the Aramaic of Joseph's time.  It is a name which means "Yahweh saves" or "Yahweh is salvation."  The angel even makes a word play on the meaning of the name by stating "because he will save his people from their sins," and the name subtly identifies Jesus with the Divine Name, Yahweh; it is a connection that will not become clear until later. 

The angel defines the Messiah's mission as spiritual and not political, saying that Jesus will be born to save mankind from their sins, not from Roman oppression. The other Biblical hero from the Old Testament who bore the same name was Joshua, Moses' successor and the man ordained by God to lead the children of Israel across the divide of the Jordan River and to begin the conquest of the Promised Land of Canaan.  Jesus/Joshua's spiritual mission was similar to the mission of the first Joshua.  Jesus' mission will be to bring salvation to mankind, leading redeemed man across the great divide between life and death and into the Promised Land of Heaven.

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."  24 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife into his home. 
This passage is the first of St. Matthew's ten "fulfillment" formula statements (ten is the number symbolizing divine order).  Each statement begins "this was to fulfill ..." and is followed by a quote from the Old Testament passage or by an allusion to a combination of several passages in one quotation.  St. Matthew's fulfillment statements:

The ten "fulfillment" statements show that everything God did in the Old Testament was part of His divine plan in preparation for the Advent of the Messiah.

St. Matthew's message is that God has announced his divine plan through His prophets, and now that plan was being fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah.  In his first "fulfillment" statement in 1:23, St. Matthew quotes from Isaiah 7:14 (the passage in our first reading for this Sunday): "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."  Notice that the prophecy follows the three-part birth pattern announcement.  Matthew established the blood line of the human Jesus in his genealogy, but he wants his readers to understand that Jesus is more than a mere human when he writes: For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her; in other words, "by the Holy Spirit without human seed" (see Lateran Council of 649) and He is the "God with us" foretold by the prophet Isaiah. 

The Isaiah prophecy is the first of the approximately 65 times St. Matthew will quote the Old Testament in his Gospel.  The prophecy from the prophet Isaiah, St. Matthew declares, is now fulfilled in Mary of Nazareth.  Mary is the virgin (both in the Hebrew and Greek text of the Old Testament).  She is the specific woman prophesied by Isaiah to give birth to "God with us" (the meaning of the Hebrew name Emmanuel).  She is also "the woman" promised by God to bear the son without the seed of a man who will defeat Satan and bring salvation to mankind in Genesis 3:15.  St. Irenaeus ( martyred c. 198/200 AD) compared the Virgin Mary to the virgin Eve: Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race ... The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith ... Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary "the Mother of the living" and frequently claim: "Death through Eve, life through Mary" (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3, 22, 4).

Both Isaiah and Matthew identify the son born of the virgin by the title "Emmanuel/Immanuel," meaning, "God with us."  Jesus will affirm that He is "God with us" at the end of St. Matthew's Gospel in Matthew 28:20 when God the Son tells His disciples: And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. 

24 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife into his home. 
The angel's message confirmed for Joseph that Mary was the virgin destined to give birth to the promised Messiah, and he demonstrated his faith and obedience to God by immediately taking Mary into his home. 

Catechism References:
Isaiah 7:14 (CCC 497)
Psalm 24:6 (CCC 2582)
Romans 1:1 (CCC 876), 1:3-4 (CCC 648), 1:3 (CCC 437, 496), 1:4 (CCC 445, 695), 1:5 (CCC 143, 494, 2087)
Matthew 1:18-24 (CCC 497), 1:16 (CCC 437), 1:20 (CCC 333, 437, 486, 497), 1:21 (CCC 430, 437, 452, 1507, 1846, 2666, 2812), 1:23 (CCC 497, 744)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013; revised 2016