This is the third of a series of nine articles about the Immaculate Conception and other related themes that will be published daily from December 1 through 9.
While Zechariah and Elizabeth were expecting the birth of a son in their old age, across the wilderness of Judea, Elizabeth’s young cousin Mary was about to experience another angelical visitation. This is the second appearance of Gabriel, the messenger from Heaven. Gabriel means “God is my strength.” When Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the Temple, the priest was afraid and he was also a little reluctant to believe the words of the heavenly messenger. For acting that way he was forced to be silent until the child was born. In this visit with Mary things could not be more different. First, Mary is not afraid of the supernatural visitor. Then she receives the message with perfect acceptance. She believes. Finally, as we shall see later when we read the Magnificat, Mary is given the gift to perfectly express the gladness of her soul, giving glory to God with a magnificent song of praise.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. Luke 1: 26-29
So the first thing we notice is that Mary is not shocked as Zechariah was. That is indicative of two important things. In preparation for the Incarnation, Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin. She is not rocked spiritually by the perfection of the angel because she is different from Zechariah. She has no reason to fear spiritual perfection because she is also spiritually and physically perfect. The second thing we notice here is that she is not surprised at the apparition. In fact what surprises her is the strange greeting of the visitor! This is very revealing.
Let me explain by means of a simple analogy. Imagine that someone has to inform you about a visit from an alien being from a distant planet. Our imaginary earthling tells us that someone from planet Zork landed in his farm and greets him saying: “Greetings! Oh lucky one!” When telling us about his encounter with extraterrestrials the farmer wonders why was he called “lucky one” instead of “earthling” or some other name. Is that normal? No! Anyone would be so shocked by such experience that may even end up with no recollection of the strange greeting!
The fact that Mary makes a note of the strange introduction would be easy to explain if she was accustomed to deal with the visitors from Heaven. My personal take on this is that young Mary of Nazareth was used to see angels. Why? Because as human being made perfect by the miracle of the Immaculate Conception her senses were comparable to those of Adam and Eve when they were in the grace of God, living in the Garden of Eden. None of us will understand exactly what that is while we are on this present state but one can surmise that the love of God permeates the very space we move in. Like a swimmer can sense the force and temperature of a water current he is immersed in, the senses of a perfect human being are perfectly in tune with the presence of God. Compare with the story of the fall in Genesis 3:8-11.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Adam had just committed the first sin but he was still holding on to some of his original perfection. He could hear the voice of God and sense the nearness of the Divine. The same attributes must have been granted to Mary along with her human perfection. Think of her early life as a princess being raised by God to be the Queen of God’s Kingdom one day, the great Gebirah, the Queen and Mother of Israel. God could not leave her upbringing to chance: a Princess has to be trained properly. Surely angelical beings protected her and educated her in the ways of God from the beginning. God is not less careful and loving that the human kings on earth.
That is why Mary was ‘greatly troubled’ by the strange new title of “full of grace” a very unusual way to call a young lady. Had she done anything wrong? Of course she hadn’t. So the following words by the angel put her at ease: “Do not be afraid, Mary” and now he was using her familiar name while giving her some information confirming in her heart that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1: 30-33
The message is clear: the angel reassures her of God’s favor; Mary will soon be pregnant and bear a son; she has to call him Yehoshua “God is salvation” – what followed were all the attributes of the Messiah — “Son of the Most High, sitting in the throne of David, ad olam for ever and ever.” The time for the redemption of Israel was at hand, and humble Mary was going to help God to fulfill His ancient promises.
Sing aloud, O Daughter Zion;
Shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O Daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst . . .
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will renew you in his love. Zephaniah 3:14, 17
There is still one question that Mary has. The question reveals something important.
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1: 34
That may seem straightforward enough but there are a few revealing bits left unsaid. Mary was promised in marriage to Joseph. All things being normal people marry and have children so … why the question? The obvious conclusion is that she will marry Joseph and they will have a child in the usual way. Mary is asking how, not because she does not know how children are born. She is asking precisely because she knows what her husband will have to do to get her pregnant but — here is Mary’s problem — she is bound by a vow of virginity. For us the question reveals that her marriage to Joseph was going to be a consecrated marriage in which both partners were going to offer their virginity to God as a sacrifice. See Judges 11:29-40
The angel answers Mary’s question. This is going to be a miraculous pregnancy similar to that of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth.
And the angel answered her, “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. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1: 35-38
The world is hanging on a word
By the Word of God the world was created. Now the time had come to save the world lost long ago to sin in the Garden of Eden. What will Mary do? Will she ask for assurances like Zechariah did? Will she reject the Divine Word and ask the angel to leave? During those brief seconds the salvation of the world, the eternal destiny of millions of souls depended on Mary’s response…
Her acceptance was immediate and total: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” From that moment God prepares Mary of Nazareth for a destiny unknown to any woman that ever lived. She will be the first daughter of God the Father, the Spouse of God the Holy Spirit, and the Mother of God the Son incarnated as the Savior of the world.
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On December 8 we are going to celebrate the day of the Immaculate Conception. These days the world seems to be fraught with danger and unspeakable acts of violence and hate. Yet we present to the world the banner of Mary. Miraculous events will soon happen just like in biblical times. We should not be afraid and wait for the moment when Mary makes herself visible to all before her Son turns His attention to the affairs of this world.
A tiny part of my mission was to write this article so you are aware of Our Blessed Mother’s interest in you and every human being alive today. Let us join in praying the Novena of the Immaculate Conception, asking Our Mother for peace in the world, and the prompt return of Her Son, Jesus.
 Greek: kecharitomene. Luke 1:28 uses the perfect passive participle kecharitomene. The perfect stem of a Greek verb denotes ‘continuance of a completed action’; ‘completed action with permanent result is denoted by the perfect stem.’ On morphological grounds, therefore, it is correct to paraphrase kecharitomene as ‘completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace.’” A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: A revision of F. Blass and A. Debrunner “Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Griechisch”. The University of Chicago Press, 1961.
 Hebrew: ad olam that is “for eternity.”