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THE SOLEMNITY OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD

Readings:
Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10
Psalm 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10-11
Hebrews 10:4-10
Luke 1:26-38

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated 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).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread 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 the Readings: The Word of God became Flesh
The solemnity of the Annunciation is exactly nine months before the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in the liturgical calendar.  This feast celebrates the visit of the archangel Gabriel to Mary of Nazareth and the conception of the Redeemer-Messiah, Jesus Christ, through the action of God the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:26-38).  It is the day God began the work of Jesus becoming flesh in Mary's womb.  In ancient times in the Church, Christian scholars believed that Jesus died on the Cross on the same day thirty-three years after He was conceived.  There are references to the Feast of the Annunciation being celebrated in the Church as early as the fifth century.  See CCC 430, 484, 490, 969, 973, 1171, 2617 and 2674.

In the First Reading, the 8th century BC prophet Isaiah announces a sign from God that will be the virgin birth of a Davidic prince who is to be a Redeemer of Israel.  It is the same prophecy that St. Matthew will testify is fulfilled in the Virgin Mary of Nazareth and her son, Jesus.  In the Psalms attributed to King David, the psalmist submits himself to God, understanding that it isn't the outward sign of animal sacrifice that pleases God but a contrite and humbled human spirit.  And in the Second Reading, we are told it was through the obedient "will" of Jesus to offer Himself up in sacrifice that we have been consecrated.  It is the will of God, which Jesus fulfilled, abolishing the "old" imperfect animal sacrifices to establish the "new" and perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sanctification of believers through the offering of body of Jesus Christ once for all to bring man to salvation!  Finally, in the Gospel Reading, we see the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy in the Annunciation of Jesus' birth by the angel Gabriel and the fiat of the Virgin Mary who completely submitted herself to the Lord and His sovereignty over her life with her words: "May it be done to me according to your word."  At the moment of Mary's free will response, Jesus was conceived by the power of God the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb that became the Ark of the New Covenant and the dwelling place of "God with us," the meaning of the Hebrew word "Emmanuel."

The First Reading Isaiah 7:10-14
10 The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: 11 Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, 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 be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us!"

In Isaiah 7:3, God commanded the 8the century BC prophet Isaiah to take his little son Shear-jashub (whose name means "a remnant will return") and to go out to meet Davidic king Ahaz of Judah (735-715 BC).  He was to tell the king not be afraid of his enemies (the kings of Aram and Israel) because God was going to save the royal house of David from its oppressors.  However, the prophet also gave the king the warning that "unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm" (Is 7:9b).  Then, the Lord told Ahaz through His prophet to ask for a miraculous "sign" as proof of God's favor, but Ahaz refused to ask.  His refusal was not out of humility as he suggests, but because he lacked faith in Yahweh and he would rather depend on the might of his Assyrian allies to help him fight his enemies.  In response, Isaiah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gave the king a sign of the future preservation of the kingdom of Judah coupled with the fulfillment of God's promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 that one of David's heirs will sit on his throne forever, saying: Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us!" Notice that the prophet does not say "a virgin" but "the virgin" meaning a specific virgin.  This can hardly be a sign that some virgin in the king's household will marry and have a son, an occurrence that happened frequently with a royal household full of multiple wives and daughters.  This virgin birth is to be a miraculous sign.

The prophet Isaiah will be quoted approximately 65 times St. Matthew's Gospel, and the announcement of the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 will be the first of ten "fulfillment" quotes.  This prophecy, St. Matthew writes, has been fulfilled in Mary of Nazareth and her son Jesus, the heir of King David.  Mary is the virgin descendant of King David; she is the specific woman prophesied by Isaiah, who has brought forth Emmanuel, "God with us!" who will inherit the throne of His "father" David (Lk 1:26-27, 31-33).  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.  Bishop St. Irenaeus of Lyons (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).

Matthew will established the blood line of the human Jesus in his genealogy, but he wanted his readers to understand Jesus is more than a mere human when he wrote: 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; both Isaiah and Matthew identify the son born of the virgin by the title "Emmanuel," in Hebrew "God with us." Jesus affirms that He is "God with us" at the end of St. Matthew's Gospel in Matthew 28:20. After His Resurrection He will promise His disciples: And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. 

In the "sign" Isaiah gave to King Ahaz in Isaiah 7:14, the Greek Septuagint translation (LXX) in use during Jesus' lifetime, translates the Hebrew words ha almah into the Greek as "the virgin," using the Greek words ho parthenos.  Since the Christian era, Jewish scholars have maintained that the Hebrew word almah does not mean "virgin" but instead refers to a young woman recently married.  The Septuagint translation of this Hebrew word as "virgin," however, is an important witness to an early Jewish interpretation of the word as "virgin", a translation accepted by Saint Matthew and applied to the virgin birth of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.  See the document: "Defending the Virgin Birth": http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/In%20Defense%20of%20the%20Old%20Testament%20Prophecy%20of%20the%20Vrigin%20Birth%20of%20the%20Messiah.htm

The Responsorial Psalm 40:7-8, 10-11~ Humility and Obedience is the Valued Sacrifice
Response: "Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will" (8a, 9a).
7 Sacrifice or oblation you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts or sin offerings you sought not; 8a then said I, "Behold I come."
Response: Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
8b "In the written scroll it is prescribed for me, 9 to do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!"
Response: Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
10 I announced your justice in the vast assembly; I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
Response: Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
11 Your justice I kept not hid within my heart; your faithfulness and your salvation I have spoken of; I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth in the vast assembly.
Response: Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

In this psalm attributed to David, the psalmist is celebrating what God has done for him.  He begins with a confession that he was in distress and called on the Lord who heard him in his time of need.  The Lord delivered him and in response he sings a new song, a hymn that is a confession of praise to God (verse 4).

7 Sacrifice or offering you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me.  Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not ...
The psalmist understands the true meaning of sacrificial offerings made to the Lord God in liturgical worship.  It is not the animal the Lord wants as a sin sacrifice.  The Lord wants the willing obedience of the offerer to the commandments and the humble contrition of the sinner whose true sacrifice is the sacrifice of self-interest in a relationship in which love of God comes before love of self (verses 7-8). 

8 then said I, "Behold I come.  In the written scroll it is prescribed for me, 9 to do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!"
In verses 8-9 the psalmist addresses God directly, announcing that his joy comes from being obedient to the precepts of the Law.  The Law isn't just words on a page (scroll), but is the path of life that God has engraved on his heart. 

10 I announced your justice in the vast assembly; I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know. 11 Your justice I kept not hid within my heart; your faithfulness and your salvation I have spoken of; I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth in the vast assembly.
In addition to keeping the commandments, the psalmist understands that his dedication to God must be active and not passive; his faith must be vocal and not silent.  He must proclaim the goodness of God in the liturgically assembly of worship so that others may hear of the good things God has done for him.  It is the same gratitude we need to show for God's mercies in our lives.  We are called to respond to Christ by proclaiming the light of Jesus Christ shinning in our lives, in our faith communities and in the secular world, as Jesus taught when He said: "... your light must shine in people's sight so that , seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven  (Mt 5:16).

The Second Reading Hebrews 10:4-10 ~ The Imperfection of Old Covenant Sacrifices made Perfect in Christ Jesus
4 It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins.  5 For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6 in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.  7 Then I said, 'As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.'"  8 First he says, "Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in."  9 These are offered according to the law.  Then he says, "Behold, I come to do your will."  He takes away the first to establish the second.  10 By this "will," we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The inspired writer identifies the imperfection of the Old Covenant sacrifices in Hebrews 10:2 with the rhetorical question that asks: if the Old Covenant sacrifices were perfect and the worshipers were cleansed of sins why would there be the necessity of continually repeating them?  He answers his own question in verse 4 saying, 4 It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins, making the definitive statement that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins because the only remedy for human sin is the perfect blood sacrifice of a perfect man which offers a perfect spiritual cleansing of sin.  This not a new teaching since a similar teaching is found in the writings of the prophets concerning the imperfection of animal sacrifice for forgiveness of sins (Ps 51:1-16; Is 1:11-13; Jer 6:20; 11:15; Hos 6:6; Amos 5:2).  It is transformed lives and contrite hearts that God seeks and animal sacrifice was only meant to teach the nature of sin and the need for atonement and purification. 

In Hebrews 10:5-7 the inspired writer says: 5 For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6 in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.  7 Then I said, 'As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.'"
It is Christ who is the implied speaker in verse 5b-7.  The inspired writer's argument concerning the imperfection of blood sacrifice is that God Himself rejected animal sacrifice as a means of atoning for sins.  This quote is from Psalm 39:9 (Septuagint Greek translation = LXX) and points to the inadequacy of all the Old Covenant sacrifices and offerings.  It also makes it clear that from a time before the Incarnation of Christ, sacred Scripture pointed to the coming of the Messiah to fulfill the Law and "to do God's will."  St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 15:3-4 concerning Christ's death being the fulfillment of Sacred Scripture: For I handed on to you as of first importance which I also received: That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third  day in accordance with the Scriptures...  In connecting this particular passage from Psalms 39 (Ps 40 in NAB) to Jesus, the inspired writer emphasizes not only the fulfillment of Scripture but Jesus' complete submission to the will of God as expressed by Jesus in Matthew 26:42 when He said: My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking, it, your will be done!"  And as St. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:8, Jesus completely submitted Himself to the will of the Father in that: ...he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.  The "body" that is prepared in Psalms 39:7 is the blood sacrifice of Christ on the altar of the Cross.

Psalm 39:7-9 from the Septuagint translation also emphasizes that the performance of the Law's external demands only pointed to what God truly required which was an inward change as expressed by the prophet Hosea in 6:6 ~ For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocausts.  Jesus submitted to the will of God in order to transform hearts and bring about what the old Law wasn't capable of achieving.  Only Jesus, through the purification of His atoning sacrifice, could fulfill what the Law was incapable of fulfilling. Jesus made statements to this effect in the Gospels (e.g., see Mt 5:17 and 9:13). :

8 First he says, "Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in."  9 These are offered according to the law.  Then he says, "Behold, I come to do your will."  He takes away the first to establish the second.  10 By this "will," we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.
The inspired writer continues to offer teaching on the passage from Psalm 39:7-9 from the Septuagint version of Sacred Scripture, but he is also connecting that passage to the words of the Prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 15:22: ~ Does the LORD so delight in holocausts and sacrifices as in obedience to the command of the LORD?  Obedience is better than sacrifice and submission than the fat of rams.  It was the Prophet Samuel who anointed David to be King of Israel (1 Sam chapter 16).  It was Samuel who was David's first teacher and David, according to the psalm quoted earlier, certainly learned this lesson from Samuel: it is obedience and submission to His will that God wants and not the blood of animals.

He takes away the first to establish the second.  10 By this "will," we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Under the Law of the Old Covenant sacrificial system, there were various kinds of sacrifices.  The inspired writer mentions two different kinds of animal sacrifice:

  1. There were animal sacrifices where the whole animal was consumed in the fire on the altar were known as "holocaust"  or "whole burnt" offerings
  2. There were sin sacrifices in which the sinner confessed his sin over the animal and the animal then died in his place, its blood "covering" the sin of the repentant individual.  This sacrifice was eaten by the priests and their families

But the sin sacrifice was a two part process: the first being the sacrifice itself that demonstrated the contrition of the sinner that led to the second part which was forgiveness and restoration of fellowship with God.  But the first part of sacrifice that was the animal's flesh and blood was not what God desired.  He wanted repentant and purified hearts that could be cleansed completely of sins: Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, and so God provided the perfect sacrifice: a body you prepared for me (Ps 39:7 LXX; Heb 10:5), and that Body was the Incarnation of the Son that the angel Gabriel announced to Mary!  In the self-sacrifice of the Son God has removed the necessity of animal sacrifice, offering instead the flesh and blood of the second, the Son who is the Lamb of God and who has established the perfect and eternal sacrifice for the consecration of mankind.  It was through the obedient "will" of Jesus to offer Himself up in sacrifice that we have been consecrated; it is the will of God, which Jesus fulfilled, abolishing the Old imperfect sacrifices to establish the New for the sanctification of believers (Mt 18:14; Gal 1:4; Eph 1:5, 9, 11) through the offering of body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb 10:10) to bring man to salvation.

The verse before the Gospel: The Word of God became flesh and made his dwelling among us; and we saw his glory.  John 1:14

The Gospel of Luke 1:26-38 ~ The Angel Gabriel Announces the Birth of the Messiah
26 [In the sixth month]The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary.  28 And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace [greetings/rejoice, has been graced]! The Lord is with you."  29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end."  34 But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" 35 And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible for God." 38 Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."  Then the angel departed from her. [..] = literal translation (Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke, page 345-46).

Luke 1:26-27 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin named Mary.  Her Hebrew name is Miriam and she lived in the insignificant village of Nazareth, located just north of the fertile Jezreel Valley, 15 miles east from the Sea of Galilee, and 20 miles from the Mediterranean Sea to the west.  The virgin bears the same name as Moses and Aaron's sister (Ex 6:20, 23; 15:20 and Num 26:59). 

Notice that St. Luke makes a clear statement of Mary's virginity, using the Greek word "virgin," twice in this passage.  It is the same Greek word (parthenos) for "virgin" that is used in the prophecy of the Old Testament Greek Septuagint translation of Isaiah 7:14, a prophecy that designates "the" virgin and not "a" virgin (see the First Reading).  Also notice how St. Luke's Gospel links the priestly family of St. John the Baptist to the family of Mary of Nazareth.  The families are related (see Ex 28:1; Lk 1:5, 32 and 36).  Zechariah's wife is a kinswoman of Mary, and both Zechariah and Elizabeth are descendants of the first High Priest, Aaron, the brother of Moses.  Therefore, as well as being a descendant of King David (Lk 1:32), Mary also has a link to the priestly bloodline (1:36).

Mary is "betrothed" to another descendant of the great King David, a man named Joseph (Mt 1:20).  A betrothal was the first stage of an arranged marriage and lasted about year (Mishnah: Ketubot, 5:2).  The betrothal involved a ketuba, a formal contract in the presence of witnesses, in addition to the payment of the mohar, the "bride price" (see Mal 2:14).  The second stage was when the bridegroom came to take the bride to his house.  At that time there was a seven-day marriage feast with the consummation of the union on the first night (Gen 29:27-28; Judg 14:12-18; Mt 1:18; 25:1-13; Tob 8:20, 27; Mishnah: Ketubot, 4:4-5).  The betrothal gave the groom legal rights over the girl and the contract could only be broken by him through a rite of divorce (see Mt 1:18-19).   Mary and Joseph were in the first stage of the marriage arrangements at the time of the Annunciation, and she was still a virgin.

28 And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one [Hail, has been graced]!  The Lord is with you."  The angel's greeting to Mary is quite different from his greeting to Zechariah in Luke 1:13.  Notice that Gabriel does not greet Zechariah with the same degree of respect and status as he did by giving Mary a title.  The greeting is also unusual in that He does not begin with the typical Semitic greeting of shalom (peace), but with chare which can be translated "hail" or "rejoice" and by announcing Mary's special status, often translated as "full of grace" but the literal translation is "had been graced."  The angel's announcement in the literal Greek is: Chare, kecharitomene [kah-ray kay-kah-ree-toe-may-nay].  The angel 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). 

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 was being expressed in the Greek past perfect participle verb kecharitomene.  "Full of grace" in the Greek would be pleres chariots, as it is 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 is signifying that she possesses, and has always possessed, a plentitude of Divine grace (Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, page 268-69).  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. To be "graced" in the past tense is to never having been lacking in grace; it is an indication of Mary's unique conception without original sin.  This phrase is found in only one other place in the New Testament in Ephesians 1:6-7 where St. Paul describes how God's grace "has been granted" to all Christians in Christ Jesus.  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 was addressed by a title that was highly unusual.

The Fathers and Doctors of the Church have 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; also see CCC 411, 490-93, 722).

The angel's greeting is 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, 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 (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 in St. Luke's allusion to the "daughter of Zion" prophecy: "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 = Yahshua/Yehoshua = "Yahweh saves"] (Lk 1:31) "the warrior-Savior" (Zeph 3:17)
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2012

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. Both St. John the Baptist and Jesus were divinely named (Lk 1:13).  The ancients believed a name reflected the true essence of a person.  In the Greek text of the New Testament, Jesus' name is rendered 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 Yehosua. An angel told 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).  In Hebrew His name 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 word play on Jesus' Hebrew name.  His name literally means "Yahweh saves" or "Yahweh is salvation" or even more literally, "I AM saves" (the Divine Name is defined in Ex 3:14 as "I AM").  Jesus' Hebrew name is a theophoric name, a name compound that includes the name of a deity as part of the name.  In this case the Yah is a prefix for Yahweh: "Yah" is a short form that represents the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, the name God revealed to Moses and the "I AM" of the burning bush in Exodus 3:13-15.  The name "I AM saves" or Yahweh saves" signifies the very name of God present in the person of the second person of the Most Holy Trinity made man for the redemption from sin of all of mankind: there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

The Fathers of the Church saw a typological link between Jesus and the Old Testament hero who succeeded Moses, led of the conquest of Canaan, and who bore the same name.  Joshua in the Old Testament prefigured Jesus in the New Testament:

The Typology of Joshua and Jesus
Joshua
"Yahweh is salvation"
Jesus
"Yahweh is salvation"
Moses gave Hoshea the name Yahshua/Joshua. The angel Gabriel told Mary of Nazareth to name God's Son Yahshua/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 Promise 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

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

The angel told Mary: "He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
The angel Gabriel told Mary her son's throne will last forever.  It is a prophecy that recalls the promise of the 5th kingdom in Daniel 2:44, the kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever.  His words also recalls God's covenant promises to King David in 2 Samuel 7:9-16 that his throne will endure forever (also see 2 Sam 23:5; Sir 45:25; 47:11/13).  St. Luke is intentionally making a link between God's promise to David of an eternal covenant and the inauguration of that covenant promise in Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus is the promised son of David's line who will rule forever.  He is the one greater than Moses promised in Deuteronomy 18:17-18, and He is God's anointed who will lead His people across the great "river" of physical death into the true Promised Land of Heaven, as prefigured by Joshua who led the children of Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land of Canaan (Josh 3:1-17).
Compare the promises the angel Gabriel made to Mary concerning Jesus' destiny in Luke 1:31-33 and the promises God made to King David in 2 Samuel 7:9-16.

Promises made to David in
2 Samuel 7:9-16
Promises made to Mary in
Luke 1:31-33
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth [literal translation = I will make your name great] (2 Sam 7:9). ... and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great (Lk 1:32).
The LORD reveals to you that he will establish a house for you and when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors [literally = your fathers]... (2 Sam 7:11-12). The Lord will give him the throne of David his father (Lk 1:32).
I shall be a father to him and he a son to me. (2 Sam 7:14). ... and will be called Son of the Most High (Lk 1:32).
... I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm [literally = the throne of your kingdom I shall establish forever] (2 Sam 7:13). Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever (2 Sam 7:16). ... he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there  will be no end (Lk 1:33).
M. Hunt © 2000

34 But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" 
Zechariah's question to the angel in 1:18 rendered a rebuke by the angel in 1:20, whereas Mary's question in 1:34 does not receive a negative response. Zechariah's question expressed unbelief (verse 20) whereas Mary's question concerns only her state of virginity.

35 And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God."
The angel uses the verb episkiazein  (overshadow) to explain Mary's Divine conception by the power of God the Holy Spirit.  It is the same verb used in the Greek Septuagint translation of Exodus 40:34 when God the Holy Spirit, in the visible form of the Glory Cloud, "overshadowed" the Tabernacle and the glory of Yahweh filled the Dwelling.  It is the same word that is used in the Transfiguration of the Christ (Mt 17:5 and Lk 9:34) when the voice of God was heard coming from a cloud which cast its shadow over those assembled on the mountain, and it is used in Acts 5:15 when St. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, approached the sick and his shadow was cast over them and they were healed.  The shadow of God is the gentlest manifestation of His Divine Presence.  Notice how tenderly He overshadowed the Virgin Mary to change her destiny and all of human history.

In Exodus 40:34 God overshadowed the Sanctuary that held the Ark of the Covenant when His presence came to dwell on it (Ex 25:10, 21-22).  There a connection between the Virgin Mary and the Ark of the Covenant.  There were the three items that were placed in the Ark of the Covenant when it resided in the Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem Temple according to Hebrews 9:4.  Compare Mary's womb with the description of the contents of the Ark of the Covenant from Hebrews 9:4:

Contents of the Ark of the Covenant according to Hebrews 9:4 Jesus Within Mary's Womb
The Ten Commandments = the word of God (also see Ex 25:21; 40:20). Jesus: the Living Word of God (Jn 1:1).
A pot of the manna, the bread from heaven (also see Ex 16:33-34). Jesus: the Living Bread come down from heaven (Jn 6:51).
Aaron's staff or branch that came back to life when green shoots budded as a sign of God's favor (also see Num 17:23, 25). Jesus: "The Branch" of the House of David that died but came to life again.*
M. Hunt © 1998

*"the Branch" is a prophetic title for the Messiah in the books of the prophets.

The sacred box of the Ark of the Covenant, upon which God's presence rested, was last seen just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/6 BC when the prophet Jeremiah hid the Ark and the tent of the desert Sanctuary in a cave on Mt. Nebo (see 2 Mac 2:1-8).  The prophet Jeremiah foretold that the time would come when the box of the Ark would no longer be important to the covenant people:  They will in those days no longer say, "The Ark of the Covenant of the LORD!"  They will no longer think of it, or remember it, or miss it, or make another (Jer 3:16b).
But will the faithful remnant of Israel, who will become the New Covenant Church of the people of God, be deprived of a sacred vessel associated with the very presence of God?  See CCC 2676 and Rev 11:19-12:1-5; 21:3.  No! The Virgin Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant!  Her womb is the first "dwelling of God ... with men" (Rev 21:3; CCC 2676).

THE VIRGIN MARY IS THE ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT
God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and then indwelled the Ark.  The Ark became the dwelling place of the presence of God. (Ex 40:34-35) God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and then indwelled Mary.  At that time Mary's womb became the dwelling place of the presence of God. (Lk 1:35)
The Ark contained the 10 Commandments (the word of God in stone), a pot of manna, and Aaron's rod that came back to life. (Ex 25:16; Dt 10:2, 5; Heb 9:4) The womb of the Virgin contained Jesus: the Word of God enfleshed, the living bread from heaven, "the Branch" (Messianic title) who would die but come back to life.  (Lk 1:35)
The Ark traveled to the hill country of Judah to rest in the house of Obed-edom.  (2 Sam 6:1-11) Mary traveled to the hill country of Judah (Judea) to the home of Elizabeth.  (Lk 1:39)
Dressed in a priestly ephod, King David approached the Ark and danced and leapt for joy.  (2 Sam 6:14) John the Baptist, son of a priest who would himself become a priest, leapt for joy in Elizabeth's womb at the approach of Mary.  (Lk 1:43)
David shouted for joy in the presence of God and the holy Ark.  (2 Sam 6:15) Elizabeth gave a cry of joy in the presence of God within Mary's womb.  (Lk 1:42)
David asked How is it that the Ark of the Lord comes to me? (2 Sam 6:9) Elizabeth asked, Why is this granted unto me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  (Lk 1:43)
The Ark remained in the house of Obed-edom for 3 months.  (2 Sam 6:11) Mary remained in the house of her cousin Elizabeth for 3 months.  (Lk 1:56)
The house of Obed-edom was blessed by the presence of the Ark.  (2 Sam 6:11) The word "blessed" is used 3 times concerning Mary at Elizabeth's house.  (in Lk 1:39-45)
The Ark returned to its sanctuary and eventually ends up in Jerusalem where the presence and glory of God is revealed in the newly built Temple.  (2 Sam 6:12; 1 Kng 8:9-11)   Mary returned home from visiting Elizabeth and eventually comes to Jerusalem, where she presents God the Son in the Temple.  (Lk 1:56; 2:21-22)
God made Aaron's rod (which would be kept in the Ark) return to life and budded to prove he was the legitimate High Priest.  (Num 17:8) God would resurrect His Son, who had become enfleshed in Mary's womb and born to bring salvation to all mankind, to prove He is the eternal High Priest.  (Heb 4:14)
When the Ark was outside the Holy of Holies [when it was being transported] it was to be covered with a blue veil.  (Num 4:4-6) In Mary's appearances outside of heaven, visionaries testify that she wears a blue veil.
In Revelation 11:19 John sees the Ark of the Covenant in heaven; this is the last verse of chapter 11 before John's vision of "the woman" in 12:1 In Revelation 12:1 John sees Mary in heaven.  It is the same vision Juan Diego saw of Mary in Mexico in 1531: the Woman clothed with the sun and standing on the moon of Rev 12:1.
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2002, revised 2012

Mary's unique role in salvation history is first mentioned in Genesis 3:15a where God cursed the Serpent and promised that the Redeemer-Messiah who will crush the power of Satan will be born from a woman: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring [seed] and hers [her seed]...  This passage is referred to as the first Gospel message, or in Greek as the Protoevangelium.  The prophets of God narrowed this promise by identifying Israel as the people destined to bring forth the promised woman.  In addition, Mary's role as the Ark of the New Covenant is foretold in the prophecies of Jeremiah.  In chapter three he wrote concerning the sacred gold-covered box of the Ark of the Covenant that will disappear in the Babylonian conquest.  When the remnant of Israel returns after the exile, he tells the people a time will come when they no long look for the lost Ark: I shall give you shepherds after my own heart, who will pasture you wisely and discreetly.  Then, when you have increased and grown numerous in the country, Yahweh declares, no one will ever again say: The Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh!  It will not enter their minds, they will not remember it or miss it, nor will another one be made.  When that time comes, Jerusalem will be called: The Throne of Yahweh, and all the nations will converge on her, on Yahweh's name, on Jerusalem, and will no longer follow their own stubborn and wicked inclinations (Jer 3:15-17 NJB). 

In this prophecy "Jerusalem," as the center of true worship, becomes a symbolic name for the universal, new Covenant Church.  Then in chapter 31, a chapter in which Jeremiah prophesies the promise of a New Covenant (31:31) he wrote: The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth: the woman must encompass the man ... (Jer 31:22b; this is the literal Hebrew and Greek translation from Jeremiah's prophecy concerning promise of the New Covenant; see Jer 31:22-34).  The NAB ends this sentence with the words "with devotion" but those words are not found in either the Hebrew or Greek text.  This passage only makes sense if the creation of the first man and woman, in which the virgin Eve was encompassed and born from the body of the man Adam when God formed her from Adam's rib (Gen 2:21-22) is being  contrasted with Jesus' being encompassed within and formed from the body of the Virgin Mary.  Normally a man child being born from the body of a woman is not "something new," but it is "something new" when that man child is the Son of God enfleshed and the Virgin Mary is His mother. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms Mary's role as the "daughter of Zion and the Ark of the New Covenant: ... Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells.  She is the dwelling of God...with men" (CCC 2676).  

What was the Holy Spirit's role in preparing Mary for the Incarnation of the Messiah, and what was the result?

  1. The Holy Spirit prepared Mary in advance for the Incarnation of the Son by infusing her with His grace at the moment of her conception: By the Holy Spirit's power and her faith, her virginity became uniquely fruitful (CCC # 723).
  2. In preparing Mary, the Holy Spirit was fulfilling God the Father's promise for the salvation of humanity: I shall put enmity between you and the woman .... (Gen 3:15).
  3. In Mary the Holy Spirit manifested God the Son enfleshed who then became the Son of God within the womb of a human mother who is both fruitful mother and ever virgin—Mary became the "burning bush" of a definitive Theophany.  Filled with the Holy Spirit she made the Word visible in the humility of His flesh through her DNA.

The result was twofold:

  1. Through the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit began to fulfill God's plan to bring humanity into communion with Christ.
  2. The Holy Spirit made Mary the Ark of the New Covenant—bearing the presence of God in her womb.  The "something new" promised by Jeremiah was a reversal of the old creation when the first virgin (Eve) came from the body of the first man (Adam).  In the beginning of the new creation, the second Adam (Jesus) came from the body of the second Eve (the Virgin Mary).  What made this event "new" is that this time the woman who held a man-child in her womb was a virgin, and the man-child was God enfleshed. 

38 Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid [servant/slave] of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word."  Then the angel departed from her.
Mary humbly identified herself as God's female slave/servant.  The Greek word is doule, the feminine of doulos which means "male slave/servant."  In the ancient world, nearly all servants were slaves.  Then Mary completely submitted herself to the Lord and His sovereignty over her life with her words: "May it be done to me according to your word."  

At the moment of Mary's free will response, Jesus was conceived by the power of God the Holy Spirit: From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived "by the Holy Spirit without human seed."  The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own ... (CCC 496).

The Incarnation took place as God the Holy Spirit "overshadowed" (episkiazein) and enveloped the Virgin Mary.  This is the same Spirit of God who moved over the face of the water of Creation, bringing life (Gen 1:2-31).  Now He came bringing life to the Virgin's womb—the fruit her womb was the work of God the Holy Spirit (CCC# 697).  This worthy Virgin, conceived without the stain of sin, became the new Tabernacle of God—the Ark of the New Covenant (see Rev 11:19-12:1; CCC 2676).  This is the mystery Catholics reflect upon every time they pray the Angelus.

Mary's fiat, her unequivocal, free will "yes" to the will of God for her life, stands in sharp contrast to the free will response of another virgin faced with a decision that not only affected her life but the course of human history in Genesis chapter 3.  The contrast to the Virgin Mary in her obedience is the virgin Eve in her decision to rebel against God and His will for her life her free will decision to decide for herself what was good and what was evil in eating of the forbidden fruit.  The Fathers of the Church saw the Virgin Mary as the "new Eve" and Mary's "yes" as the undoing the disobedience brought about by the virgin Eve: Thus, the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.  What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.22.4).  And the Church affirms her role as the "new Eve" from the time of the promise of Mary's role in salvation history prophesied in Genesis 3:15 (known as the Protoevangelium, "first good-news"/gospel): ... Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the "new Eve..." (CCC 411, also see CCC 489, 726, 2618 and 2853).

Catechism References:
Isaiah 7:14 (CCC 497)
Psalm 40:7-9 LXX (CCC 462); 40:7 (CCC 2824)
Hebrews 10:5-10 (CCC 606); 10:5-7 (CCC 462, 516, 2568); 10:5 (CCC 488); 10:7 (CCC 2824); 10:10 (CCC 614, 2824)
Luke 1:26-38 (CCC 497, 706, 723, 2571); 1:26-27 (CCC 488); 1:26 (CCC 332); 1:28-37 (CCC 494); 1:28 (CCC 490, 491); 1:31 (CCC 430, 2812); 1:32-33 (CCC 709); 1:32 (CCC 559); 1:34 (CCC 484, 497, 505); 1:35 (CCC 437, 484, 486, 697); 1:37-38 (CCC 494); 1:37 (CCC 148, 269, 273, 276); 1:38 (CCC 64, 148, 510, 2617, 2677, 2827, 2856)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015