COMMENTARYAGAPE BIBLE STUDYPRACTICAL APPLICATIONCATENA AUREALECTORS

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

CATHOLIC PRODUCTIONS (6:31) – In the First Reading, there is a woman who is clothed with the sun with the moon under feet, adorned with a crown of 12 stars. In this video, Dr. Brant Pitre discusses the meaning of Revelation 12 and its famous woman.
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR

Key Points to the Readings

Our Sunday Visitor does not provide Sunday Readings and Backgrounds for the Solemnity of the Assumption.

FIRST READING

1 Kings 19:4-8

The angel of the Lord came back to him

  • Elijah, discouraged and fearing for his life, flees into the desert and prays for death.
  • God’s answer to his prayer echoes the Exodus and desert experience of Israel.
  • Though he is discouraged and desperate when he flees into the desert, Elijah is transformed by the bread and water sent from God.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

SECOND READING

Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Live in love

  • Today’s passage describes the undeniable love that Christ has shown.
  • Paul reminds the Ephesians that they share in new life with God.
  • Christ gave his life for love of us; we must in turn show love to our neighbor.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

GOSPEL

John 6:41-51

No one can come to me unless my Father draws him or her

  • Those who hear Jesus describe himself as “bread from heaven”, murmur about Jesus being the Bread of Life.
  • This echoes Israel murmuring in the desert about food and water and leadership.
  • The difference between manna and Jesus is that those who ate the manna died, but those who eat the Bread of Life will live forever.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.


Dr. Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA

HEARERS OF THE WORD (PDF)

HEARERS OF THE WORD

Commentary for Assumption readings – NOT AVAILABLE

Sunday 20B21 (15 August 2021)

Click to access OT-20B21.pdf

SOURCE: Hearers of the Word | Audio & VIDEO
Navarre Bible

SUNDAY COMMENTARY (PDF)

COMMENTARY

Click to access assumption-abc.pdf

Sources include The Jerome Biblical Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and The Navarre Bible. In addition, Church History by Laux (TAN Books), Introduction to the Bible by Laux (TAN Books), A Guide to the Bible by Fuentes (Four Courts Press), and Sharing Our Biblical Story by Russell for background information. We also included quotations from The Faith of the Early Fathers (3 volumes) by Jergens and Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (many volumes) edited by Odum.
SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese.
Raymond E. Brown

Introduction to the New Testament

INTRODUCTION: INFANCY AND BOYHOOD OF JESUS (1:5-2:52)

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PAUL AND THE RISEN JESUS (1 COR 15)

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Ave Maria Press

A Catholic Study of God’s Word

INFANCY NARRATIVES

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Niell Donavan

Sermon Writer

EXEGESIS

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

First Reading

EXEGESIS NOT AVAILABLE

Second Reading

Gospel Reading

saint louis university

Scripture in Depth

PREACHING THE LECTIONARY by Reginald Fuller

FIRST READING:The meaning of this mysterious passage is obscure, and many interpretations have been suggested. The child who is born is clearly the Messiah. This is shown by the application of the messianic Psalm 2:9 to the child in verse 5, and by the proclamation that follows his exaltation to the throne of God. But who is the woman? There are three possibilities:…

RESPONSORIAL PSALM:The king in the psalm has to be equated with the Messiah (there is New Testament precedence for this in Hebrews 1:8-9); the queen, with Israel, his bride. This provides an indirect connection with the Blessed Virgin Mary as the personification of Israel. But the allegory must not be pressed. Not only does it do violence to the original meaning, but it does not fit the desired application.

SECOND READING: This is the passage to which the Protestants appeal against the dogma of the bodily assumption of Mary. It asserts that all human beings are in bondage to death, and that they can only attain to immortality through the resurrection of the dead.

GOSPEL:  The Magnificat should be read, not as an individual utterance of Mary, but as the utterance of the representative of the true Israel. This is indicated by the switch from the first person singular to the third person plural in verse 50.

RELATED:

  1. THE WORD EMBODIED: NOT AVAILABLE
  2. HISTORICAL CULTURAL CONTEXT: NOT AVAILABLE
  3. THOUGHTS FROM THE EARLY CHURCH: Nicolas Cabasilas
  4. LET THE SCRIPTURES SPEAK: NOT AVAILABLE
  5. SPIRITUALITY OF THE READINGS: Can You Hear?
  6. GLANCING THOUGHTS: Mary, the Mother of God
  7. THE PERSPECTIVE OF JUSTICE: A Poor and Simple Girl
  8. A POEM TO SIT WITH: Medjugorje
Visit liturgy.slu.edu for more resources (e.g PRAYING TOWARD SUNDAY, MUSIC OF SUNDAY, GENERAL INTERCESSIONS) to help you reflect on the spirituality of the scriptures before Mass.

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

INTRODUCTION

The Church’s Dogma

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrates, according to the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern, and Oriental Orthodox Chruches, the taking up of the Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heavenly glory at the end of her earthly life. This solemnity has been celebrated in the Eastern rites since the sixth century and in Rome since the seventh. This belief is part of the Deposit of Faith received from the Apostles, and since her earliest years, the Church taught this dogma (a truth of faith) of Mary’s entrance into Heaven before she died or when she was very near death. However, it wasn’t until this doctrine came under continual attack that Pope Pius XII dogmatically defined it in November 1950 in the apostolic constitution Munificentisimus Deus by exercising papal infallibility (see CCC 966).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
First Reading

The Vision of the Ark and the Woman

COMMENTARY

11:19a God’s Temple in Heaven was opened, and the Ark of his covenant could be seen in the Temple. 12:1 A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head, a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4 Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the Dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. 6a The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.  […] 10 Then I heard a loud voice in Heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Anointed One.”

Our reading is from the visions the glorified Jesus revealed to St. John while he was a prisoner on the island of Patmos (Rev 1:1-2, 9). The point of this particular vision in the Book of Revelation, which comes midway through St. John’s seven visions, is like a new beginning. Our lectionary reading presents these verses without a chapter division. Originally, Sacred Scripture had no chapter or verse designations. The chapter divisions were introduced in the Middle Ages, probably by the Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton (d. 1228). The verse separations were added later by Robert Estienne in the 16th century. The point is that there is no separation between 11:19 and 12:1 in the ancient manuscripts, and that is how the passage should be read and studied: 11:19a God’s Temple in Heaven was opened, and the Ark of his covenant could be seen in the Temple.  12:1 A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

That “Heaven was opened” is a significant statement that announces this vision is taking place after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. From the time of the Fall of Adam until Jesus’ Baptism and His Resurrection victory over sin and death, the gates of Heaven remained closed to all human beings (Mt 3:16; Rev 4:1; CCC 5361026). All the dead, both the wicked and the righteous, were consigned to Sheol (Hades in Greek) until Jesus descended to Sheol from His grave, preached the Gospel of salvation, and then led the souls of the righteous dead into the gates of Heaven (1 Pt 3:18-22; 4:6; Apostles’ Creed; CCC 632-635).

Revelation 11:19 reveals that St. John saw the Ark of the Covenant, the most sacred shrine of the covenant people, in the heavenly Sanctuary. This statement would have riveted 1st-century AD readers. The Ark of the Covenant was lost to the covenant people of Judah/Israel since just before the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 587/6 BC when the prophet Jeremiah removed it from the Holy of Holies and hid it in a cave on Mt. Nebo (2 Mac 2:1-8). In Jesus’s time, the Holy of Holies of the rebuilt Second Temple was an empty room. It is important to note what Scripture relates concerning the way into the heavenly Sanctuary: the Holy Spirit shows that the way into the Sanctuary had not yet been revealed while the outer tabernacle still had its place (Heb 9:8), referring to the Ark of the Covenant in the Jerusalem Temple. In John’s vision, he saw the opened heavenly Sanctuary and the Ark of the Covenant revealed. The Ark was created by God’s command at Mt. Sinai and was the people’s visible proof of their covenant relationship with God and His divine presence among them (Ex 25:10, 22). According to the Letter to the Hebrews, the Ark held three items (Heb 9:3-4):

  1. a jar of manna, the bread from Heaven
  2. the branch or staff of the high priest Aaron, which miraculously came back to life, budded, and bore fruit as a sign of his authority
  3. the word of God written on the two tablets of the Ten Commandments

12:1 A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
When the thunder and lightning ceased, John announced that he saw the Ark (11:19). Then, in the next verse, he immediately saw a woman. And the woman he saw was “a GREAT sign”!  The words a “great sign” will only appear again in Revelation Chapter 15 when the seven angels bring forth their chalices with seven plagues.

The “great sign” pointing to the woman as a symbol is central to understanding the significance of the vision. St. John’s message to the reader is to think carefully about the Biblical meaning of this “great sign.” In the Bible, a “sign” always points beyond itself to something more significant. In this case, the Greek noun for “sign” is semeion, and the central “sign” or symbol is a “woman.” The word “woman” or “women” appears nineteen times in the Book of Revelation, making it almost as important a symbol as that of “the Lamb” (used thirty times). Jesus told John from the very beginning of the visions that what he must write down was going to be a “book of signs” of events that are to take place very soon (Rev 1:1), and in Revelation 1:3, He warned John the time is near. Indeed, John will use the word “sign” a significant seven times in Chapters 12-19, revealing three signs in Heaven (Rev 12:1, 3; 15:1) and four on earth (Rev 13:13, 14; 16:14; 19:20).

There are three astronomical signs used to describe the woman in Rev 12:1: the sun, the moon, and twelve stars. Some commentators refer to the vision of Joseph son of Jacob-Israel in Genesis 37:9-11, when he saw his father as the sun, his mother, Rachel, as the moon, and his brothers as eleven stars bowing down to him. Other scholars disagree that there is a connection, and they suggest these are genuine celestial images. The constellation Virgo (“the Virgin”) appears wreathed in twelve stars: Pi, Nu, Beta, Sigma, Chi, Iota (six stars from the Southern Hemisphere around the head of Virgo) and Theta, Star 60, Delta, Star 93, Beta, the second magnitude star, and Omicron (these last six from the Northern Hemisphere around the head of Virgo). All these stars are visible ones that can be seen with the naked eye now and in the 1st century AD.

Most commentators suggest, the twelve stars may stand for the twelve tribes of Israel since Mary was a “daughter of Israel,” but since Mary is also a symbol of the New Covenant Church, they may also stand for the twelve Apostles. Thus, both the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel and the Apostles represent the divine order of government for God’s covenant people in the Old and New Covenants.

It is also interesting that the only time the constellation Virgo is “clothed” with the sun and has the moon “under her feet” is in the month that is the sign of Virgo (“the Virgin”). This phenomenon corresponds with the Jewish Feast of Trumpets (ordained by God at Mt. Sinai) in late August-mid September! It is also significant that the 7th Trumpet has just sounded in the Book of Revelation before John’s vision of the Ark and the great sign of “a woman.” Lesson 18 of the Book of Revelation study discusses the connection to the Feast of Trumpets.

In the Old Testament, “a woman” is a familiar Biblical image for the Old Covenant Church, the chosen people of God who were collectively the Bride of Yahweh (see Is 26:17-18; 40:1-2; Chapter 50; 66:6-11; Jer Chapter 3; Lam Chapter 1; Ez Chapter 16; Hos Chapters 1-4, and Mic Chapter 4).  The Ark John saw is a woman who is a “great sign” (Rev 12:1).  She is the “woman” whose coming God foretold in Genesis 3:15 whose “seed” (offspring) God destined to defeat the “seed” of Satan, the serpent. The “woman” John saw signifies the fulfillment of the mission of her Son, Jesus Christ.

Most Protestant commentaries want to dismiss Mary as the “great sign” and only recognize the “woman” as a sign of the Church. However, the “sign” of the woman John saw was more than a symbol of the Church because he specifically identifies her as the mother of Christ in verse 5: The woman was delivered of a boy, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron scepter.  It is the same way Christ identified Himself in Revelation 2:27 when He said, “I myself have been given by my Father, to rule them with an iron scepter and shatter them like so many pots.” Revelation 2:27 and 12:5 in our passage are references to the kingship of the Messiah from Psalms 2:9: With an iron scepter, you will break them, shatter them like so many pots.

Since the writings of the early Church Fathers, the Church has identified the woman clothed in the sun and standing on the moon as the Virgin Mary after her assumption into Heaven. In his vision, St. John saw her revealed in all her glory as the Davidic Queen Mother (Gebirah/Gebira) of her Jesus’s heavenly kingdom. See the document “Mary The Queen Mother of the New Davidic Kingdom.htm.” The most important woman in the realm of a Davidic king was his mother, and Scripture names most of their mothers along with their sons in the list of the Davidic kings of Judah in the Book of 2 Kings (cf., 2 Kng 8:26; 12:1-2; 14:1-2; 15:1-232-33; 16:1-2; 18:1-2; etc.). Pope Pius X, Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul II affirmed this teaching. And the vision of St. Juan Diego when the Virgin Mary appeared to him at Tepeyac hill in Mexico in December 1531 confirms this interpretation. He saw a woman “clothed in the sun and standing on the moon.” She identified herself to Juan Diego as the Virgin Mary. The image that miraculously appeared on his peasant cloak was the same vision St. John saw of the “woman” in Revelation 12:1!

The connection to Mary is the title Jesus used to address His mother in John 2:1-4 at the wedding in Cana and when He spoke His last words to His Mother from the Cross in John 19:27. He called her “woman,” gunai in Greek, which is better translated as “little woman.” Jesus used this title to address Mary because she is the promised “woman” of Genesis 3:15, whose son would defeat the serpent, Satan (Rev 12:9). She is the new Eve who, unlike the first Eve, was obedient to God, and through her obedience helped to bring about the redemption of humanity. That Mary is the Ark of the Covenant St. John saw in Heaven is revealed in the contents of the gold-covered box of the ancient Ark of the Covenant (Heb 9:3-4) and the identity of Jesus inside the womb of the Virgin Mary:

  1. He is the “Living Bread that came down from heaven” (Jn 6:51; Heb 9:4b).
  2. He is the “Branch” (Messianic title; see Is 11:1; Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zec 3:8; 6:12) that was dead but came back to life and bore fruit in the redemption of humanity (Heb 9:4b).
  3. He is the “Living Word of God” (Jn 1:1-5; Heb 9:4b). Therefore, Mary, the Mother of God, is the true sacred vessel, the Ark of the New Covenant that the other only prefigured!

For these reasons, the Catholic Church teaches that the Virgin Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant in the interpretation of Revelation 11:19-12:1.

THE VIRGIN MARY AS 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 God dwells. She is ‘the dwelling of God […] with men.'”  CCC#2676
God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and then indwelled the Ark.  The Ark became the dwelling place of the presence of God among His people (Ex 40:34-35). God the Holy Spirit overshadowed and then indwelled Mary.  Mary’s womb became the dwelling place of the presence of God among His people (Lk 1:35).
The Ark contained the Ten 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 living 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 leaped for joy (2 Sam 6:14). John the Baptist, son of a priest who would himself become a priest, leaped for joy in his mother’s womb (Elizabeth) at the approach of Mary bearing Christ in her womb (Lk 1:43).
David shouted for joy in the presence of God and the holy Ark (2 Sam 6:15). Elizabeth exclaimed with a loud cry of joy in the presence of God the Son within Mary (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 three months (2 Sam 6:11). Mary remained in the house of her cousin Elizabeth for three months (Lk 1:56).
God blessed the house of Obed-Edom because of the presence of the Ark (2 Sam 6:11). The word “blessed” is used three times in Luke 1:39-45 concerning Mary at Elizabeth’s house.
Later, the Ark resided in the newly built Temple (2 Sam 6:12; 1 Kng 8:9-11). Mary eventually came to Jerusalem, presenting God the Son in the Temple (Lk 1:56; 2:21-22).
God made Aaron’s rod (later kept in the Ark) return to life, bud, and bear fruit to prove he was the legitimate High Priest (Num 17:8). God resurrected His Son, who had become enfleshed in Mary’s womb and born to bring the fruit of salvation to all humanity, and upon His Ascension to become the eternal High Priest (Heb 4:14).
God commanded that the priests must cover the Ark with a blue veil when transporting it outside the Holy of Holies (Num 4:4-6). In Mary’s appearances outside of Heaven, visionaries testify that she wears a blue veil.
In Revelation 11:19, St. John saw the Ark of the Covenant in Heaven in the last verse of Chapter 11. In Revelation 12:1, St. John saw Mary in Heaven. It is the same vision Juan Diego saw of Mary in 1531—the Woman clothed with the sun and standing on the moon.
Michal E. Hunt, Copyright © 2002

The Virgin Mary’s title is “Woman” because she is the promised “Woman” of Genesis 3:15.  She is also the “new Eve.” Just as the original Eve cooperated in humanity’s fall from grace, so too does Mary, as the “new Eve,” assist in humanity’s redemption. The first Eve’s name means “mother of all living,” but Mary is truly the Mother of all those who will live for eternity. Jesus gave the Church His mother Mary, the second Eve, when He told John the beloved disciple, as representative of all beloved disciples, from the Cross: “Behold your mother.” It is by the gift of His mother to His Bride, the Church, that she becomes the “Mother of the living” for all who live in Christ: “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” (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3,22,4).

The Woman and the Dragon: 12:2 She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.  3 Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.  4 Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth.  Then the Dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth.
The Book of Revelation begins in 1:1 with the announcement: He sent His angel to make it known to His servant John (underlining added for emphasis). With St. John’s vision of Mary, the Mother of God, as the Ark of the New Covenant in Revelation 11:19-12:1, he then turns to the beginning of the story of Israel’s struggle to bring forth the Messiah. In Revelation 12:2-10, St. John saw Mary, a daughter of Israel, and the symbol of the Old Covenant Church, laboring down through salvation history to give birth to the Messiah. We understand that the vision refers to the Old Covenant Church laboring to bring for the Messiah because Mary, who was without original sin, did not suffer under the curse of pain in childbirth. What unfolds is the birth of Jesus and the birth of the Church, together with Satan’s unsuccessful attempts to destroy Jesus and the Woman (and the product of her precious “seed” = the Church), as promised from the fall from grace of our first parents, Adam and Eve. The second part of the Book of Revelation will end with Christ’s victorious ascent into Heaven and the victory of the Church over Satan and his “seed.”

12:2 She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
The literal translation in Greek reads exactly like the description of Mary in Matthew 1:18, she was found to be with child. The passage in Matthew is a quote from the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 (quoted as a fulfillment statement in Mt 1:23). And during that struggle in laboring to give birth, the woman is crying aloud. The verb krazo, used in the present tense, indicates prolonged suffering. The verb has special significance in Scripture where it is generally used for oath swearing, or the solemn proclamation of God’s divine revelation, or for God’s servants speaking out against opposition to God’s plan (see Mt 27:50; Mk 3:11; 5:7; 9:24; 10:48; 15:13; Jn 1:15; 7:28; 12:13, 44; Acts 19:28, 32, 34; Rom 9:27; Gal 4:6; Jam 5:4; and Rev 6:10; 7:2, 10; 10:3; 14:15; 18:2, 18-19; 19:17). This time the crying aloud is prophetic. It is the essence of all prophetic revelation that bear witness to the Christ (Jn 5:39, 45-46; Lk 24:25-27; Acts 3:24; 13:27) and the Church’s official declaration of the Word of God, the prophecy she (the Old Covenant Church) cried out as she labored down through the centuries to give birth to the Messiah.

This verse is a symbolic reference to the Old Covenant Church struggling through her painful history to “give birth” to the Messiah in fulfilling Israel’s destiny. It is symbolic because she did not experience pain in giving birth to Jesus since Mary was without sin. Pain in childbirth was Eve’s judgment for disobeying God and the curse for fallen humanity (see Gen 3:16). However, that curse did not apply to Mary. It has always been a tradition of the Church that Jesus’s birth was like light passing through glass, as the Protoevangelium of St. James and St. Thomas Aquinas described His birth. Mary’s virginity remained intact, and there was no pain because the curse of Genesis 3:16 did not apply to one conceived without sin (CCC 490-93). John’s description of the woman crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth echoes the prophet Isaiah’s use of the pain of childbirth to describe the Old Covenant Church’s struggle to secure salvation for believers. Isaiah wrote: As a pregnant woman near her time of delivery writhes and cries out in her pangs, so have we been, Yahweh, in your eyes: we have been pregnant, we have writhed, but we have given birth only to wind: we have not given salvation to the earth (Is 26:17).

Throughout her existence, Israel, the Old Covenant Church, was longing for the Messiah. The waiting began with the covenant with Abraham when God selected a holy couple as the family from which the “holy seed” of the Messiah would come to redeem humanity. The waiting continued through slavery in Egypt, Exodus liberation, and the covenant-treaty establishing the Old Covenant Church at Sinai. The waiting continued in the time of the Davidic Covenant, the exile in Babylon, and the return, to the sufferings of the covenant people under the rule of the Greeks and Romans. All that time, Israel was laboring to give birth to the Messiah; it was a birth that promised to yield salvation for the entire world! Mary, a daughter of the Old Covenant Church and a daughter from the house of the great King David (Lk 1:32), is the perfect symbol of the Church laboring to give birth to Messiah Jesus.

Do not miss the significance of the Book of Isaiah prophesying God giving a sign to King Ahaz that finds its fulfillment in the virgin birth of Christ (Is 7:10-14 and quoted as a fulfillment statement in Mt 1:23). The point is, a woman giving birth is hardly a unique sign, but regardless of the meaning of the Hebrew ha-almah being “the virgin” or “the young woman,” the Greek translation definitely has “the virgin” (parthenos). That is the Greek translation from Isaiah used in the 1st-century at the time of the birth of Christ as quoted by St Matthew in the fulfillment statement in 1:23, stating that the virgin birth of Jesus was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.  For more on the subject of the Isaiah 7:14 translation controversy, see the document The Septuagint Old Testament Translation Versus the Jamnian and Massoretic Old Testament Translations.

3 Then a second sign appeared in the sky: there was a huge red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet.  4 Its tail swept a third of the stars from the sky and hurled them to the ground, and the Dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was at the point of giving birth, so that he could eat the child as soon as it was born.”
This passage is not a sequel to the earlier vision but a “prequel.” John unveils this scene as an explanation of the preceding passage and answer why the Woman/Mother-Church had to flee into the wilderness. Once he has described Satan’s rebellion in verses 7-12, John will return to the theme of the flight of the Woman.

John gives us the identity of the “dragon” in verse 9, which is missing from our reading. The Dragon is Satan. The dragon imagery links us to the primeval serpent (verse 9), the same deceiver of Eve and the enemy of God’s people. But he will not have victory over the Second Eve, the Virgin Mary, the promised woman of Genesis 3:15 whose “seed”/offspring will defeat Satan. The concept of Mary as the “New Eve” goes back to the earliest years of the Church. St. Irenaeus (martyred in AD 202) wrote: “Consequently then, Mary the Virgin is found to be obedient, saying: ‘Behold, O Lord, your handmaid; be it done to me according to your word.’  Eve, however, was disobedient; and when yet a virgin, she did not obey.  Just as she, who was then still a virgin although she had Adam for a husband, for in Paradise they were both naked but were not ashamed; for, having been created only short time, they had no understanding of the procreation of children, and it was necessary that they first come to maturity before beginning to multiply, having become disobedient, was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man, but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race…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).

Notice that we now have three symbols representing three entities in the reading, but in the complete passage of Revelation Chapter 12, there are four, and the fourth is an angel:

The Sign The identity of the Sign Identifying Verse
The Woman The Virgin Mary and Mother of the Church verses 5, 17
The Dragon Satan verse 9
The Son Jesus the Messiah verse 5
The Angel Michael the Archangel verse 7

If all the other identities of the signs are symbols and individuals, then it follows that the Woman must be more than a symbol; she must also be an individual who plays a role in salvation history.

Its tail swept a third of the stars from the sky and hurled them to the ground.
John has already associated stars with angels in the Book of Revelation. It is a familiar Biblical connection (see the Lesson on Revelation 1:20). Here, John symbolically describes the fall of the angel Dawnstar/Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-15) and the angels who joined him in the rebellion against God. He gives more clarification in verse 9 that is not part of our reading: the great Dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had led all the world astray, was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. St. Peter also relates this event in 2 Peter 2:4 ~ When angels sinned, God did not spare them: He sent them down into the underworld and consigned them to the dark Abyss to be held there until the Judgment.  And also, see Jude verses 5-13, which has relevance for the interpretation of the judgment of God on unbelieving Israel. St. Jude writes: I should like to remind you, though you have already learnt it once and for all, that the Lord rescued the nation from Egypt, but afterwards, he still destroyed the people who refused to believe him; and the angels who did not keep to the authority they had, but left their appointed sphere, he has kept in darkness in eternal bonds until the judgment of the great Day (Jude verses 5-6). And Jude verse 13: like wandering stars for whom the gloom of darkness is stored up forever, also throws light on the reference to “stars” in Revelation 12:4.

We do not know that a literal third of the heavenly host fell with Satan. The third is probably symbolic for a complete but partial number and recalls the third of the Trumpet Judgments (see Rev 8:7-12; 9:15, 18). There may also be a connection to Jesus Christ as the “firstborn” (re’shiyt in Hebrew). The “firstborn” is a title and a rank but not necessarily a birth order. Every son designated by his father as a “firstborn” was entitled to a two-thirds portion of the inheritance (see Dt 21:17). God has reserved a two-thirds part for Jesus, “the firstborn,” and His Kingdom (one-third fell, so two-thirds remains of the faithful host of Heaven). Another interesting point in this passage is the courtroom language John uses. The Biblical principle of the “two witnesses” may also be involved: for every false witness (fallen angel) of Satan who stands against the covenant, God has two angels on His side to support the covenant.

This two-thirds/one-third imagery also appears in the Book of Zechariah, the post-exile prophet, but in reverse in Zechariah 13:7-9. Significantly, Jesus will quote Zechariah 13:7 at the Last Supper discourse. The one-third that is faithful but tested by fire is the “faithful remnant” of Israel that embraces the Messiah (Jn 15:6). These faithful are also “the seed of the Woman” collectively through Mary as Mother of the Church upon whom Satan will declare war (see Rev 12:17).

Who does the Dragon intend to destroy in Rev 12:4? There are two answers:

  1. Mary’s seed = Jesus
  2. The Church’s seed = believers in the New Covenant in the blood of Christ (see Rev 12:17).

Do you see the connection between Mary and the Church?  Both are at the same time ever-virgin and fruitful mother. The Church is the virgin Bride of Christ and, at the same time, the fruitful mother of many generations of believers.

In Revelation 12:4, “The dragon stopped in front of the woman” is perhaps better translated as “took his stand before the woman.” The Greek word is hesteken, which means “to stand.” Satan knows this is the final battle. And continuing in verse 4, the line to eat the child is more meaningfully translated as “to swallow up the child.” In Hebrew, the phrase “swallowing up” means to kill or to do away with and is used frequently to express Satan’s seed bringing suffering and destruction to God’s people, like Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, who tried to “swallow up” Jerusalem (Jer 51:34 literal Hebrew translation). With the imagery in this passage, John reveals the red Dragon as the power behind the imperial thrones (he wears a royal crown) of the ancient world that have persecuted God’s holy covenant people. John’s vision is the same as what God revealed to His prophet Daniel in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 7. The seven crowns in Revelation 13:1 link this figure to Daniel’s vision. You can read about the symbolism of the ten horns and seven crowned heads in Chapter 13 of the Revelation study).

The Dragon/Satan’s ultimate goal is to abort the work of the Messiah and to devour/kill Him; therefore: the Dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was at the point of giving birth, so that he could eat the child as soon as it was born. Scripture announced the war between the Messiah and Satan in Genesis 3:15. The war is between the two seeds: the seed of the Woman and the seed of the Serpent (literal Hebrew in Gen 3:15).  From Genesis to Revelation, from the first book to the last book of the Bible, this is the war of history. Throughout human history, Satan was either trying to: keep Jesus from being born, or kill Him as soon as He was born, or destroy Him as an adult. It is a strategy by which Satan cannot win. St. Augustine wrote: “The cross of the Lord was the devil’s mousetrap; the bait by which he was caught was the Lord’s death.”

5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne.  6a  The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.  10 Then I heard a loud voice in Heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Anointed One.”
This verse identifies Mary as the “woman” in addition to the symbolic representation of the woman as the Church. The reference to the Messianic passage from Psalms 2:9 in this verse is also in Revelation 12:7. It identifies Jesus as the Messianic King (see bold type added for emphasis) ~ I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh: He said to me, “You are my son, today have I fathered you.  Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your birthright, the whole wide world as your possession. With an iron scepter, you will break them, shatter them like so many pots” (Ps 2:9).

The Psalmist in Psalm 2, like John, makes the Messiah’s birth one with His enthronement. The Ascension and enthronement was the goal of Christ’s First Advent. In other words, because God the Father begets Jesus as His Son, Jesus Christ reigns! Despite everything Satan has tried to do, “the promised seed of the Woman” is caught up to the heavenly throne and takes His place as the ruler of all nations with an iron scepter, just as if He had gone from the Incarnation straight to the Throne. Satan has no power to stop Him.

6a  The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.
The imagery moves from the Woman/Mary and her seed/Jesus to the Woman as the Church, and her seed, the faithful believers in Christ Jesus. As it will become apparent, the Woman’s flight into the wilderness represents the flight of the Judean Christians from religious persecution by the Jews and later the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. While she is in the “wilderness,” “the Woman”/the Church is nourished and cared for by God; when Satan’s wrath falls vengefully on Christians, God protects the Church. The “Woman’s” flight does not signify God’s abandonment of her but instead His loving provision. Christ’s faithful Bride (the New Covenant Church) is safe because God prepared a safe place for her (see 2 Sam 7:10; 1Chr 17:9; Jn 14:2-3).

John also probably means for us to think of two other occasions when the “Woman,” as an individual, and the “Woman,” as the Old Covenant Church, was protected by obedience to God’s command to escape from danger. Those two events are Israel’s flight into the wilderness to flee from the Egyptians and the flight of the Virgin Mary into Egypt to escape wicked King Herod, who tried to kill baby Jesus (Mt 2:13-15). We should also be aware that this verse images Mary not only as the symbol of the Old Covenant Church and the mother of Christ but also as the Mother of all Christians (Rev 12:17). Like the image in Revelation 12:2, the New Covenant Church continues to struggle against Satan and labors in giving birth to future generations of New Covenant believers.

Our passage in the First Reading ends with: 10 Then, I heard a loud voice in Heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Anointed One.”
The announcement of victory comes, as it often has in John’s heavenly visions, in a loud voice from Heaven calling the heavenly assembly to praise God for His marvelous works brought about through the Blood of the Lamb. This verse reminds us that the entire setting of St. John’s vision is liturgical. The result of Christ’s victory over Satan is fourfold: salvation, power, kingdom, and authority (in the symbolic meaning of numbers in Scripture, four is the number of the earth):

  1. salvation for humanity
  2. power over Satan
  3. the Kingdom of Jesus Christ
  4. the authority of Christ the Messiah (“anointed”) of God and King of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth = the Universal (Catholic) Church.

Satan is no longer the prince of the earth; his dominion over humanity and the world has ended. He is unable to prevent God’s plan for humankind’s salvation. However, his influence and the power to do damage remains. Therefore, we, as the spiritual offspring of Mary, who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus (Rev 12:17), must take up the fight against evil by continuing Jesus’s earthly ministry to spread His Gospel message for the sake of humanity’s salvation.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Responsorial Psalm

Mary the Davidic Queen

The response is: “The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.”

Psalm 45 describes the king’s marriage to a foreign princess.  First, the psalmist praises the king and then turns his attention to the virgin bride who has come to unite her life to his. In verses 10-11, the bride is encouraged to be submissive and obedient to her husband. He loves her and will make her happy. In verse 15, the bride’s companions accompany her as she enters the king’s palace. This psalm was part of the liturgy of the Jerusalem Temple. Its purpose was to raise the people’s consciousness to the promise of the future Davidic Messiah-King and the people’s role as the covenant bride.

Since verses from this psalm appear in the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews (compare Ps 45:6-7 to Heb 1:8-9), Christian tradition has expanded its significance by seeing the Church and the Blessed Virgin Mary in its references to the king’s bride. Specifically, verse 9b supports the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. St. Amadeus wrote: “Therefore when the Virgin of virgins was assumed into heaven by the God who was her Son, the King of kings, amid the joy and the rejoicing of the angels and archangels and the acclamation of all the blessed, the prophecy of the psalmist was fulfilled: ‘At your right hand stands your queen in gold of Ophir [Ps 45:9]'” (St. Amadeus of Lausanne, Homily, 7).

In Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, she took her rightful place as the Queen of the heavenly Kingdom of her Son, the Divine Davidic King. In the days of the Davidic kings, it was not his wife who sat at the right side of the king; it was the king’s mother (he had several wives but only one mother) who bore the official title Gebirah, “Queen Mother” (see 1 Kng 1:10-28; 2 Kng 10:13, etc.). Mary is also the symbol of the Church, the Bride of Christ. She is both ever-virgin and fruitful mother since all Christians are her children. The rightful Queen (Gebirah) of the Kingdom is Mary’s role in Heaven.  See the document “Mary the Queen Mother of the New Davidic Kingdom and the chart of the Davidic kings and their mothers

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Second Reading

Christ the Firstfruits of the Resurrection

COMMENTARY

20 Christ has been raised from the dead, the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  21 For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man.  22 For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, 23 but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; 24 then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.  25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for “he subjected everything under his feet.”

St. Paul writes about the end of the age when Christ returns as the glorious King, having overcome sin and all elements of its power over the world. Although St. Paul only refers to the resurrection of the just (verse 23), elsewhere, he mentions the resurrection of all humanity, both the righteous and the sinner (1 Cor 15:51-53; 1 Thess 4:13-17, etc.). Mary’s assumption into Heaven prefigures the resurrection of the just, and those, like Mary, who have died to sin with Christ in Christian baptism will also reign with Him (2 Tim 2:12). But the Virgin Mary is the one who has a special place among the redeemed because she is the mother of the Redeemer and the first Christian. She is also the Gebirah, the Queen Mother of the Davidic King of the new and eternal Covenant.

25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for “he subjected everything under his feet.”

In verses 25-26, Paul speaks of the destruction of death when Christ returns, and the Last Judgment takes place (see CCC 1038-1041). It is vision St. John witnesses in the Book of Revelation: I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened.  Then another scroll was opened, the Book of Life.  The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls.  The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead.  All the dead were judged according to their deeds.  Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire.  This pool of fire is the second death.  Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire (Rev 20:12-15, NJB; underlining added for emphasis).

Hades is not the hell of the damned, but the abode of the dead called Sheol in Hebrew and Hades in Greek.  Notice that it is a state that continues to function until the end of time and the Last Judgment (Rev 20:13-14).  Sheol/Hades was a state where the righteous waited for the coming of the Messiah, and the wicked suffered in punishment for their sins (Lk 16:19-31). When Jesus descended to preach the Gospel of salvation to the dead in Sheol, He liberated the righteous dead from that state (1 Pt 3:18-20; 4:6; Apostles’ Creed). At that time, both blessings and judgments became eternal. Sheol no longer held the righteous dead but became known as a place of purification for the saved who died with unconfessed venial sins or for the atonement of confessed and forgiven mortal sins where further atonement was still necessary (1 Cor 3:13-15). The Church identifies this state as Purgatory, from the Latin word for purification, where the fiery love of God cleanses those destined for Heaven (CCC 1030-32). The pool of fire is the hell of the damned (see CCC 6331033-34).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

Gospel

The Visitation and the Canticle of the Virgin Mary

COMMENTARY

The Visitation: Mary journeys from Nazareth to the house of Zechariah:
39 Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  43 And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

After the angel, Gabriel’s visit, and the incarnation of God the Son, Mary probably joined a caravan traveling to Jerusalem, making the seven to eight-day journey from Nazareth in Galilee to the hill country of Judea and the town of her kinswoman Elizabeth and her priestly husband, Zechariah. According to a Christian tradition that predates the Crusades, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in the Judean town of Ein Kerem, about four miles west of Jerusalem. After the Jew’s return from the Babylonian exile, the Book of Nehemiah records that the chief priests took up residence in or near Jerusalem (Neh 11:3).

Elizabeth was in seclusion for the first five months of her pregnancy (Lk 1:24), as the ancients counted without the concept of a zero place-value (four months as we count). When Mary traveled to visit her, she was in the sixth month of her pregnancy, as the ancient’s counted (Lk 1:36).  Mary’s desire to see her kinswoman was probably prompted by the Holy Spirit as well as by her need to share her experience with someone who would understand her experience of the Incarnation.

41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
When Mary entered her house, and Elizabeth first heard Mary’s voice (Lk 1:40), the fetus of St. John the Baptist, recognizing the presence of his Lord, leaped for joy within his mother’s womb (Lk 1:41, 44). The unborn St. John’s response to Mary and the Christ within her womb recalls God’s words to Jeremiah: Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you (Jer 1:5). Think of the horror of abortion that is taking place daily as children, personally known by God from the womb and given as His holy gift, are violently murdered before, and in some cases, after birth.

In Elizabeth’s Holy Spirit inspired greeting to her kinswoman, she gives three blessings in verses 42-45:

  1. She blesses Mary (verse 42).
  2. She blesses Jesus (verse 42).
  3. She blesses the faith Mary has for God to make her the mother of the Lord Messiah (verse 45).

We recite Elizabeth’s blessing of Mary in verse 42 in the Hail Mary Prayer that begins with the angel Gabriel’s greeting in Luke 1:28, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Elizabeth’s third blessing for Mary: Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled, is in contrast to Zechariah’s unbelief (1:18).  Mary is the first Christian. Her belief does not waver during the years of Jesus’s ministry or His Passion. She is last seen in Scripture faithfully praying together with those who believed and waited for the coming of the Paraclete in the Upper Room after Jesus’ Ascension (Acts 1:13-14).

Luke 1:43 And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Bible scholars, both ancient and modern, have commented on the similarity between Elizabeth’s rhetorical question in Luke 1:43 and King David’s rhetorical question referring to the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6:9 when he said: How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” They have seen Elizabeth’s question as an intentional comparison between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, the dwelling place of God among His people (see the chart on Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant in the first reading). A deliberate comparison seems confirmed by verse 56, where Mary is said to stay in Elizabeth’s house in the Judean hill country for three months just as the Ark remained in the Judean hill country house of Obed-Edom for three months in 2 Samuel 6:11.

In this passage, when Elizabeth says “my Lord” in verse 43 and “the Lord” in verse 45, her reference is to Jesus in verse 43 and God in verse 45. In referring to the Divinity of Jesus, she, therefore, calls Mary “the mother of God.” By the strength of Elizabeth’s statement, prompted by the Holy Spirit, the Council of Ephesus declared Mary not only the “Mother of Jesus” but also the “Mother of God” in AD 431. In CCC 495, the Church teaches: “Called in the Gospels ‘the mother of Jesus,’ Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as ‘the mother of my Lord.’ In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly ‘Mother of God (Theotokos).'”  Also, see CCC 466, 495, and 509.

From what Elizabeth said in verse 45, she knows what the angel Gabriel told her husband and what Gabriel told Mary. The Holy Spirit revealed this knowledge to her in the moment of her joy, but other information must also have been related to her by her husband (see 1:60 where she knows the child’s name before Zechariah’s speech has returned).

For other references to the expression “fruit of your womb” in Scripture, see where God promised to bless Israel for covenant obedience: He will love and bless and multiply you; he will bless the fruit of your womb and the produce of your soil (Dt 7:13). Also, see Psalm 127:3 where it is written: Children too are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb, a reward. Therefore, to reject the birth of a child is to reject a gift from God.

Luke 1:46-55 ~ The Canticle of Mary (the Magnificat)
46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my Savior 48 for he has looked upon his lowly servant.  From this day all generations will call me blessed: 49 the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.  50 He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.  51 He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit.  52 He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.  53 He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.  54 He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, 55 and the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.”  56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s exclamation of praise for her belief and the honor God has shown her as “the mother of the Lord” is a hymn of praise known as the Magnificat. Some scholars have concluded that Mary’s Magnificat, like the Benedictus of Zechariah (Lk 1:68-79), was an early Aramaic Jewish-Christian hymn that predates Luke’s Gospel. Other scholars disagree, citing the numerous references to the Greek Septuagint Old Testament passages within the two chants (Fr. Raymond Brown, The Birth of Jesus, pages 350-55 and the opposing view from Fr. Raymond Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke, page 361). One test for such a theory is how easily the Greek translates into Hebrew or Aramaic. Notice that Mary’s hymn is full of Old Testament Scripture references.

Mary’s hymn of praise divides into three parts.  She praises God for:

  1. what He has done for her (verses 46b-49)
  2. God’s mercy to the poor and disadvantaged (verses 50-53)
  3. His faithfulness to Abraham’s descendants, the nation of Israel (verses 54-55)

46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…
Mary begins by calling God her Savior, and not just her people’s Savior. The word “Lord,” Kyrios in Greek, is understood to be Yahweh, who is the source of Mary’s blessing and her salvation. The expression “rejoices in God my Savior” echoes Hannah’s hymn of praise to God in 1 Samuel 2:1.

In verse 48, Mary says:  For he has looked upon his lowly servant.   From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me.  The NJB has “he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant,” which also echoes Habakkuk 3:18. Her humble station is the first reason for Mary’s praise. She declares that because of God’s Divine plan for her life and her willingness to submit to that plan, all generations will pronounce a beatitude over her. The verb makariousin, in the future tense, reflects the adjective makaria that Elizabeth used in verse 45.

Notice in verse 48b that Mary utters a prophecy for future generations and her relationship to them prompted by the Holy Spirit. However, this prophecy requires action on the part of Christians. Our obligation is to honor Mary, just as her son honored her according to the Law (Ex 20:12; Dt 16). If we live in imitation of Christ, we must imitate His honor and love for her. To honor one’s parents is the only one of the Ten Commandments that carries a promise (see Ex 20:12). When Jesus gave Mary into the care of the beloved disciple as his mother at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:26-27), she became the mother of every disciple of Christ Jesus (also see Rev 12:17).

49 the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.  50 He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.

Verse 49 is the second reason for Mary’s praise. She uses the same title for God that appears in the “daughter of Zion” passage in Zephaniah 3:17 (Greek LXX) and Psalms 89:9 (Greek LXX).  That God “has done great things” for her echoes Deuteronomy 10:21, in which God promised the children of Israel He would do “great things” (great saving acts) for them if they remain loyal and obedient. Mary saw this promise fulfilled for her in what God did by making her the mother of the Redeemer-Messiah. It is a “great thing” that would not only bring about her salvation but the salvation of her people (also see Dt 11:7 and Judg 2:7).

Notice in verses 49-50 that Mary names three attributes of God: His might, holiness, and mercy. “Holy is his name” or “His name is holy” refers to God’s Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh) and is an echo of Psalms 119:9, while “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him” echoes Psalms 103:17. One’s “name” was believed to express the entire essence of a person, or in this case, of God as the great “I AM” and which God told Moses, “This is my name forever; this is my title for all generations” (see Ex 3:15).

When Mary spoke of “fear of the Lord” in verse 50, something God repeatedly urges in Scripture (i.e., Ex 18:21; Lev 25:17, 36, 43; Dt 6:13, 24; 8:6; 10:12, 20), it is a repeat almost verbatim from Psalm 103:17. However, she was not speaking of servile fear but reverence toward God in recognizing His sovereignty and fear of offending Him. “Fear of the Lord” is the positive aspect of keeping on the path to righteousness.  Mary’s hymn that began by praising God for what He has done for her now expands to what God has done for her people as a whole.

51 He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit.  52 He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.  53 He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.

Expressions similar to “shown the strength/might of his arm” often appear in Scripture (for example, Ex 6:6; Dt 4:34; Ps 89:11; Is 40:10; 51:5, 9; 53:1). God is spirit, and this expression doesn’t mean to suggest God has arms like human beings. It is an anthropomorphism meant to convey the exercise of God’s great power and strength. Verse 52 is an echo of Job 5:11 and 12:19.

The “wealthy” who are the “arrogant of mind and heart” are the enemies of the poor and humble and therefore the enemies of God (see Is 2:12, 17; 4:15; 13:1; Wis 3:10-11, etc.). Mary is speaking of God’s promise of ultimate justice for those who have suffered and for those who have caused the suffering. She includes a quote from Psalm 107:9: For he satisfied the thirsty, filled the hungry with good things. In His Divine justice, God will judge men and women according to their deeds (Mt 25:31-46; Lk 6:20-25), and the rich who abused the use of their material gifts will experience a reversal of fortune when they are “sent away empty.”

54 He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, 55 and the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.”
Mary’s concluding statement contains echoes of the promises in Isaiah 41:8-9 from the Greek Septuagint (LXX) translation of the Old Testament (the version used in Mary’s time), as well as Psalms 98:3 and Micah 7:20:

  • You, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen … You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off (Is 41:8-9).
  • He has remembered faithful love [hesed = merciful covenant love] toward the house of Israel (Ps 98:3).
  • You will show faithfulness to Jacob and grace to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from days of old (Mic 7:20).

Mary understands that her condition bearing the Redeemer-Messiah, the heir of King David, and the living realization of the promises of the Davidic covenant is the fulfillment of God’s promise not to abandon His covenant people. Her son will fulfill the covenant promises made to Abraham, one of which was a blessing that was to extend worldwide (Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). Jesus Christ and His Kingdom of the Church fulfill that blessing (Gal 3:8).

Mary’s beautiful hymn of praise illuminates her great humility and faith. Of course, it is the way God created her. In Catechism citation 722, the Church teaches: “The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace.  It was fitting that the mother of Him in whom the whole fullness of deity dwells, bodily, should herself be ‘full of grace.’  She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty.  It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the ‘Daughter of Zion: Rejoice.’  It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son.”

56Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
According to Scripture, Elizabeth was six months pregnant when Mary arrived (Lk 1:24, 26), and Mary remained with Elizabeth for three months (Lk 1:56). Does this suggest that Mary stayed until the birth of Elizabeth’s son? Before you answer, remember the ancients counted without the concept of a zero place-value and included parts of days. This way of counting is why Scripture records Jesus rested in His tomb three days from Friday before sundown to Sunday morning instead of two, and why Scripture says a woman was pregnant for ten months (see Wisdom 7:1-2). Therefore, according to the way we count, Elizabeth was five months pregnant when the angel visited Mary, and she was seven months pregnant when Mary left. Thus, Mary left before St. John’s birth.

Mary returned to Nazareth when she was two months pregnant as we count months (three as the ancients counted). She had pressing issues to settle in Nazareth before her pregnancy began to show and before travel became too dangerous for her. She trusted in God to protect her and to bring His Divine Plan for humanity’s salvation through the birth of her son to completion.

Do you assist in fulfilling Mary’s prophecy that “all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48) in obedience to the word of prophetic knowledge by the Holy Spirit? Do you venerate her as the Mother of God, the Gebirah = Davidic Queen Mother of Heaven, and the Mother of the Church who is your spiritual Mother? Show her your love and reverence by praying the rosary with her for the sake of her Son’s Kingdom and her other children, your Christian brothers and sisters who are in peril and suffering persecution.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

Assumption of Mary

LIFE RECOVERY NOTES

The Ways of an Infinite God

Job 38:8
“Who decreed the boundaries of the seas when they gushed from the depths? Who clothed them with clouds and thick darkness

New Living Translation (Hover cursor above the scripture reference to read the NRSV version)

JOB 38:2–39:30 God used a series of questions to illustrate how little Job knew about creation and God’s ways. If Job knew nothing of these mysteries, how could he know anything about God’s character? All Job could do was worship and trust God.

We, too, wonder why we suffer. We wonder why bad things happen to us and those we love. But like Job, we are finite and cannot understand the ways of our infinite God. All we can do is praise him and await his deliverance.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Care of Responsible Shepherds

Jeremiah 23:4
Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the LORD, have spoken!

JER 23:1-4 Shepherds—the leaders of God’s people—who were supposed to care for God’s “sheep” had scattered and forsaken them. Since Judah’s leaders had led God’s people astray, God promised to punish the leaders and gather his people “back to their own sheepfold.” He vowed to place them in the care of responsible shepherds who would love and tend them. Jesus is our good shepherd, loving us and tending us as his flock (see John 10:1-18).

If we are willing to seek out and follow his will for our life, there is hope for us, no matter how far we may have strayed.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Cosmic Recovery

Revelation 12:1
Then a great pageant appeared in heaven, portraying things to come. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head.

REV 12:1-14 The birth of Christ and Satan’s opposition to it are graphically depicted here. Jesus the Messiah was born into this world to implement God’s plan for its restoration. Satan had planted sin into God’s good creation by tempting Adam and Eve. Since Jesus was born to reverse the effects of that sin, Satan did all he could to destroy the infant Savior. Thankfully, Satan failed and the future ruler of the world completed his earthly mission.

As much as Satan tries to thwart God’s plan for the world’s recovery, he will not be able to. Our personal recovery is an important part of God’s plan for cosmic recovery. If we entrust our life to God and obey him, he will certainly complete the task of recovery in our life.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

The Greatest Power in the Universe

1 Corinthians 15:20
But the fact is that Christ did actually rise from the dead and has become the first of millions who will come back to life again someday.

1 COR 15:12-20 Some of the Corinthian believers had begun to question the hope of being resurrected to new life at Christ’s second coming. So Paul reemphasized the importance of the resurrection and the hope it offers to all, even those who are already dead. The greatest expression of God’s power was raising Jesus from the dead.

If God could do that, then he has the power to do any- thing! If God did not raise Jesus from the grave, however, then our God is powerless, and we are lost. Paul affirmed the truth that Jesus did rise from the dead; in so doing, he also affirmed that we have access to the greatest power in the universe—God himself.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL

Featured Commentaries

Mark: Prelude to the Feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:33-34)

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Exalting Jesus in Mark (Chr… by Juan Carlos Herrera

Mark: A Reader-Response Commentary - The Apostles look for a Quiet Place (6.30-34)

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Mark Commentary by Oscar Cabrera

Mark: A Theme Based Approach - Testimony of Three Miracles
SOURCE: Made available through SCRIBD. All rights reserved.

Repentance and Humility

Luke 1:51
“How powerful is his mighty arm! How he scatters the proud and haughty ones!

LUKE 1:51-55 These words from Mary’s song present God’s priorities in stark contrast to the way our world thinks. When life seems unfair and does not turn out the way we might have chosen, it is important to realize that God’s ways are not our ways.

Personal fulfillment and genuine recovery do not come through human greatness and success, but through repentance and sincere humility. The most important relationships in life are not with the rich and famous but often with the lowly, the needy, and those in recovery.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
FEASTING ON THE GOSPELS – LUKE

Crossing Generational Boundaries

Elizabeth shows us that those in positions of elder wisdom can celebrate the gifts of the young and encourage their prophetic witness to God’s work in the world, instead of recoiling in fear and defensiveness when a new generation sees God’s will at work in new ways.

Luke 1:39-56: This shared celebration between Elizabeth and Mary can show those of us who struggle in communities of faith each day how to learn to celebrate the continuities and discontinuities of our experience, and to learn from, equip, and inspire each other. Generational theorists Neil Howe and William Strauss have suggested in their studies of American society that how one generation relates to the subsequent generation often dictates the prosperity or demise of the people as a whole. A generation that clings to power and seeks to preserve its own well-being at the cost of the young creates a crisis for the future. The young who refuse to listen to those who have walked before them can become isolated and reactive wanderers with no center point to their lives because of their mistrust and rejection of traditions and institutions.

In Elizabeth’s praise of Mary, the church can see a new way to cross generational boundaries. Elizabeth, the representative of all that should be celebrated about the tradition of God in the community, sings praises to the young girl who is bearing God’s purposes into the world. This song of praise appears to open the mouth of the young girl to proclaim prophetically and with confidence this new world God is bringing about. Without her encounter and encouragement from Elizabeth, Mary might not have possessed the confidence to envision God’s new creation. Mary does not, however, describe a future totally foreign to Elizabeth’s understanding of God’s will, but a world formed by the revelation of God to that faith community.

Elizabeth has something to teach those in the church who have lived out the tradition faithfully, who would say they have encountered the living Lord in it. She shows us that those in positions of elder wisdom can celebrate the gifts of the young and encourage their prophetic witness to God’s work in the world, instead of recoiling in fear and defensiveness when a new generation sees God’s will at work in new ways. Mary has something to teach the young in the church: that they are inheritors of a story that they should learn to love and value, rather than reject and abandon. When they see God working in a new and expansive way, they should seek to proclaim that message in continuity with the faithfulness God has shown to the church throughout its history. It is only together, Elizabeth with Mary, that the past and the future come together in the present as prophetic witness. May this be so in each of our communities of faith, by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

SOURCE: EXCERPT taken from FEASTING ON THE GOSPELS—LUKE. All rights reserved.
AFRICA STUDY BIBLE

Praise

Praise should be the natural reaction when we have experienced a special blessing from God.

Luke 1:39-56 – God chose Mary for a privileged task. She was a worthy representative of the poor and humble of this world. Because of the special privilege God had given to her, her heart overflowed with praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. The hymn is full of Old Testament words and phrases, indicating that Mary had memorized and meditated on the Old Testament Scriptures. These were the words that flowed out of her when she expressed her praise to God.

Praise is an important part of the Christian life. Praise should be the natural reaction when we have experienced a special blessing from God. If we have been hiding God’s Word in our hearts, our praise will be like Mary’s—full of biblical language and imagery. “He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).


SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THE AFRICA STUDY BIBLE
PREACHER’S COMMENTARY

An Awesome Flashback

A dramatic flashback vision of the event of the birth of our Lord which shows in a dramatic fashion that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was a moment of cosmic significance.

Rev 12:1-6 The first great sign is of a woman in the anguish of childbirth and in a place of grave danger. Who is this woman? Is the woman Mary the mother of our Lord now symbolically portrayed in an awesome flashback? Is the woman the symbol of Israel from whose lineage the Savior is born? The most obvious interpretation of this sign is that this is a dramatic flashback vision of the event of the birth of our Lord which shows in a dramatic fashion that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was a moment of cosmic significance. Herod’s attempt to destroy the infant Jesus was an historical event that is overshadowed by a greater search and the intention of a more ominous foe than Herod the Great. That opponent is introduced as the second sign. It is the red dragon who seeks to devour the woman and her son. But the dragon fails in his attempt.

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THe Preacher’s Commentary, Complete 35-Volume Set: Genesis–Revelation offers pastors, teachers, and Bible study leaders clear and compelling insights into the entire Bible that will equip them to understand, apply, and teach the truth in God’s Word.
LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE

“From Now On All Generations Will Call Me Blessed”

Mary was recognizing and accepting the gift God had given her.

Luke 1:48 When Mary said, “From now on all generations will call me blessed,” was she being proud? No, she was recognizing and accepting the gift God had given her. Pride is refusing to accept God’s gifts or taking credit for what God has done; humility is accepting the gifts and using them to praise and serve God. Don’t deny, belittle, or ignore your gifts. Thank God for them and use them to his glory.

SOURCE: EXCERPT taken from LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE. All rights reserved.

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Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

LUKE 1:39-45

39. And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;

40. And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

41. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

42. And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

43. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

44. For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

45. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

ANNOTATED INDEX

Third Century

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

Fourth Century

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

Fifth Century

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

Sixth Century

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

Seventh Century

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

Eighth Century

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

Ninth Century

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

Eleventh Century

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

COMMENTARY

AMBROSE. The Angel, when he announced the hidden mysteries to the Virgin, that he might build up her faith by an example, related to her the conception of a barren woman. When Mary heard it, it was not that she disbelieved the oracle, or was uncertain about the messenger, or doubtful of the example, but rejoicing in the fulfilment of her wish, and consicentious in the observance of her duty, she gladly went forth into the hill country. For what could Mary now, filled with God, (plena Deo) but ascend into the higher parts with haste!

ORIGEN. For Jesus who was in her womb hastened to sanctify John, still in the womb of his mother. Whence it follows, with haste.

AMBROSE. The grace of the Holy Spirit knows not of slow workings. Learn, ye virgins, not to loiter in the streets, nor mix in public talk.

THEOPHYLACT. She went into the mountains, because Zacharias dwelt there. As it follows, To a city of Juda, and entered into the house of Zacharias. Learn, O holy women, the attention which ye ought to shew for your kinswomen with child. For Mary, who before dwelt alone in the secret of her chamber, neither virgin modesty caused to shrink from the public gaze, nor the rugged mountains from pursuing her purpose, nor the tediousness of the journey from performing her duty. Learn also, O virgins, the lowliness of Mary. She came a kinswoman to her next of kin, the younger to the elder, nor did she merely come to her, but was the first to give her salutations; as it follows, And she saluted Elisabeth. For the more chaste a virgin is, the more humble she should be, and ready to give way to her elders. Let her then be the mistress of humility, in whom is the profession of chastity. Mary is also a cause of piety, in that the higher went to the lower, that the lower might be assisted, Mary to Elisabeth, Christ to John.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. iv. in Matt.) Or else the Virgin kept to herself all those things which have been said, not revealing them to any one, for she did not believe that any credit would be given to her wonderful story; nay, she rather thought she would suffer reproach if she told it, as if wishing to screen her own guilt.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer.) But to Elisabeth alone she has recourse, as she was wont to do from their relationship, and other close bonds of union.

AMBROSE. But soon the blessed fruits of Mary’s coming and our Lord’s presence are made evident. For it follows, And it came to pass, that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb. Mark the distinction and propriety of each word. Elisabeth first heard the word, but John first experienced the grace. She heard by the order of nature, he leaped by reason of the mystery. She perceived the coming of Mary, he the coming of the Lord.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer.) For the Prophet sees and hears more acutely than his mother, and salutes the chief of Prophets; but as he could not do this in words, he leaps in the womb, which was the greatest token of his joy. Who ever heard of leaping at a time previous to birth? Grace introduced things to which nature was a stranger. Shut up in the womb, the soldier acknowledged his Lord and King soon to be born, the womb’s covering being no obstacle to the mystical sight.

ORIGEN. (vid. etiam Tit. Bos.) He was not filled with the Spirit, until she stood near him who bore Christ in her womb. Then indeed he was both filled with the Spirit, and leaping imparted the grace to his mother; as it follows, And Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. But we cannot doubt that she who was then filled with the Holy Spirit, was filled because of her son.

AMBROSE. She who had hid herself because she conceived a son, began to glory that she carried in her womb a prophet, and she who had before blushed, now gives her blessing; as it follows, And she spake out with a loud voice, Blessed art thou among women. With a loud voice she exclaimed when she perceived the Lord’s coming, for she believed it to be a holy birth. But she says, Blessed art thou among women. For none was ever partaker of such grace or could be, since of the one Divine seed, there is one only parent.

BEDE. Mary is blessed by Elisabeth with the same words as before by Gabriel, to shew that she was to be reverenced both by men and angels.

THEOPHYLACT. But because there have been other holy women who yet have borne sons stained with sin, she adds, And blessed is the fruit of thy womb. Or another interpretation is, having said, Blessed art thou among women, she then, as if some one enquired the cause, answers, And blessed is the fruit of thy womb: as it is said, Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord. The Lord God, and he hath shewed us light; (Ps. 118:26, 27.) for the Holy Scriptures often use and, instead of because.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. Now she rightly calls the Lord the fruit of the virgin’s womb, because He proceeded not from man, but from Mary alone. For they who are sown by their fathers are the fruits of their fathers.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Geometer.) This fruit alone then is blessed, because it is produced without man, and without sin.

BEDE. This is the fruit which is promised to David, Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne. (Ps. 132:11.)

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Severus.) From this place we derive the refutation of Eutyches, in that Christ is stated to be the fruit of the womb. For all fruit is of the same nature with the tree that bears it. It remains then that the virgin was also of the same nature with the second Adam, who takes away the sins of the world. But let those also who invent curious fictions concerning the flesh of Christ, blush when they hear of the real child-bearing of the mother of God. For the fruit itself proceeds from the very substance of the tree. Where too are those who say that Christ passed through the virgin as water through an aqueduct? Let these consider the words of Elisabeth who was filled with the Spirit, that Christ was the fruit of the womb. It follows, And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

AMBROSE. She says it not ignorantly, for she knew it was by the grace and operation of the Holy Spirit that the mother of the prophet should be saluted by the mother of his Lord, to the advancement and growth of her own pledge; but being aware that this was of no human deserving, but a gift of Divine grace, she therefore says, Whence is this to me, that is, By what right of mine, by what that I have done, for what good deeds?

ORIGEN. (non occ. vide Theoph. et. Tit. Bost.) Now in saying this, she coincides with her son. For John also felt that he was unworthy of our Lord’s coming to him. But she gives the name of “the mother of our Lord” to one still a virgin, thus forestalling the event by the words of prophecy. Divine foreknowledge brought Mary to Elisabeth, that the testimony of John might reach the Lord. For from that time Christ ordained John to be a prophet. Hence it follows, For, to, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded, &c.

AUGUSTINE. (Epist. ad Dardanum 57.) But in order to say this, as the Evangelist has premised, she was filled with the Holy Spirit, by whose revelation undoubtedly she knew what that leaping of the child meant; lamely, that the mother of Him had come unto her, whose forerunner and herald that child was to be. Such then night be the meaning of so great an event; to be known indeed by grown up persons, but not understood by a little child; for she said not, “The babe leaped in faith in my womb,” but leaped for joy. Now we see not only children leaping for joy, but even the cattle; not surely from any faith or religious feeling, or any rational knowledge. But this joy was strange and unwonted, for it was in the womb; and at the coming of her who was to bring forth the Saviour of the world. This joy, therefore, and as it were reciprocal salutation to the mother of the Lord, was caused (as miracles are) by Divine influences in the child, not in any human way by him. For even supposing the exercise of reason and the will had been so far advanced in that child, as that he should be able in the bowels of his mother to know, believe, and assent; yet surely that must be placed among the miracles of Divine power, not referred to human examples.

THEOPHYLACT. The mother of our Lord had come to see Elisabeth, as also the miraculous conception, from which the Angel had told her should result the belief of a far greater conception, to happen to herself; and to this belief the words of Elisabeth refer, And blessed art thou who hast believed, for there shall be a performance of those things which were told thee from the Lord.

AMBROSE. You see that Mary doubted not but believed, and therefore the fruit of faith followed.

BEDE. Nor is it to be wondered at, that our Lord, about to redeem the world, commenced His mighty works with His mother, that she, through whom the salvation of all men was prepared, should herself be the first to reap the fruit of salvation from her pledge.

AMBROSE. But happy are ye also who have heard and believed, for whatever soul hath believed, both conceives and brings forth the word of God, and knows His works.

BEDE. But every soul which has conceived the word of God in the heart, straightway climbs the lofty summits of the virtues by the stairs of love, so as to be able to enter into the city of Juda, (into the citadel of prayer and praise, and abide as it were for three months in it,) to the perfection of faith, hope, and charity.

GREGORY. (super Ezech. lib. i. Hom. i. 8.) She was touched with the spirit of prophecy at once, both as to the past, present, and future. She knew that Mary had believed the promises of the Angel; she perceived when she gave her the name of mother, that Many was carrying in her womb the Redeemer of mankind; and when she foretold that all things would be accomplished, she saw also what was to follow in the future.


LUKE 1:46

46. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord.

COMMENTARY

AMBROSE. As evil came into the world by a woman, so also is good introduced by women; and so it seems not without meaning, that both Elisabeth prophesies before John, and Mary before the birth of the Lord. But it follows, that as Mary was the greater person, so she uttered the fuller prophecy.

BASIL. (in Psalm 33) For the Virgin, with lofty thoughts and deep penetration, contemplates the boundless mystery, the further she advances, magnifying God; And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Athanasius.) As if she said, Marvellous things hath the Lord declared that He will accomplish in my body, but neither shall my soul be unfruitful before God. It becomes me to offer Him the fruit also of my will, for inasmuch as I am obedient to a mighty miracle, am I bound to glorify Him who performs His mighty works in me.

ORIGEN. Now if the Lord could neither receive increase or decrease, what is this that Mary speaks of, My soul doth magnify (magnificat) the Lord? But if I consider that the Lord our Saviour is the image of the invisible God, and that the soul is created according to His image, so as to be an image of an image, then I shall see plainly, that as after the manner of those who are accustomed to paint images, each one of us forming his soul after the image of Christ, makes it great or little, base or noble, after the likeness of the original; so when I have made my soul great in thought, word, and deed, the image of God is made great, and the Lord Himself, whose image it is, is magnified in my soul.


LUKE 1:47

47. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

COMMENTARY

BASIL. (ubi sup.) The first-fruit of the Spirit is peace and joy. Because then the holy Virgin had drunk in all the graces of the Spirit, she rightly adds, And my spirit hath leaped for joy. (exultavit.) She means the same thing, soul and spirit. But the frequent mention of leaping for joy in the Scriptures implies a certain bright and cheerful state of mind in those who are worthy. Hence the Virgin exults in the Lord with an unspeakable springing (and bounding) of the heart for joy, and in the breaking forth into utterance of a noble affection. It follows, in God my Saviour.

BEDE. Because the spirit of the Virgin rejoices in the eternal Godhead of the same Jesus. (i. e. the Saviour,) whose flesh is formed in the womb by a temporal conception.

AMBROSE. The soul of Mary therefore magnifies the Lord, and her spirit rejoiced in God, because with soul and spirit devoted to the Father and the Son, she worships with a pious affection the one God from whom are all things. But let every one have the spirit of Mary, so that he may rejoice in the Lord. If according to the flesh there is one mother of Christ, yet, according to faith, Christ is the fruit of all. For every soul receives the word of God if only he be unspotted and free from sin, and preserves it with unsullied purity.

THEOPHYLACT. But he magnifies God who worthily follows Christ, and now that he is called Christian, lessens not the glory of Christ by acting unworthily, but does great and heavenly things; and then the Spirit (that is, the anointing of the Spirit) shall rejoice, (i. e. make him to prosper,) and shall not be withdrawn, so to say, and put to death.

BASIL. (ubi sup.) But if at any time light shall have crept into his heart, and loving God and despising bodily things he shall have gained the perfect standing of the just, without any difficulty shall he obtain joy in the Lord.

ORIGEN. But the soul first magnifies the Lord, that it may afterwards rejoice in God; for unless we have first believed, we can not rejoice.


LUKE 1:48

48. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

COMMENTARY

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Isidore.) She gives the reason why it becomes her to magnify God and to rejoice in Him, saying, For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden; as if she said, “He Himself foresaw, therefore I did not look for Him.” I was content with things lowly, but now am I chosen unto counsels unspeakable, and raised up from the earth unto the stars.

AUGUSTINE. (Pseudo-Aug. Serm. de Assumpt 208.) O true lowliness, which hath borne God to men, hath given life to mortals, made new heavens and a pure earth, opened the gates of Paradise, and set free the souls of men. The lowliness of Mary was made the heavenly ladder, by which God descended upon earth. For what does regarded mean but “approved?” For many seem in my sight to be lowly, but their lowliness is not regarded by the Lord. For if they were truly lowly, their spirit would rejoice not in the world, but in God.

ORIGEN. But why was she lowly and cast down, who carried in her womb the Son of God? Consider that lowliness, which in the Scriptures is particularly praised as one of the virtues, is called by the philosophers “modestia.” And we also may paraphrase it, that state of mind in which a man instead of being puffed up, casts himself down.

BEDE. But she, whose humility is regarded, is rightly called blessed by all; as it follows, For, behold, from henceforth all shall call me blessed.

ATHANASIUS. For if as the Prophet says, Blessed are they who have seed in Sion, and kinsfolk in Jerusalem, (Isa. 31:9. apud LXX.) how great should be the celebration of the divine and ever holy Virgin Mary, who was made according to the flesh, the Mother of the Word?

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Metaphrastes.) She does not call herself blessed from vain glory, for what room is there for pride in her who named herself the handmaid of the Lord? But, touched by the Holy Spirit, she foretold those things which were to come.

BEDE. For it was fitting, that as by the pride of our first parent death came into the world, so by the lowliness of Mary should be opened the entrance into life.

THEOPHYLACT. And therefore she says, all generations, not only Elisabeth, but also every nation that believed.


LUKE 1:49

49. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

COMMENTARY

THEOPHYLACT. The Virgin shews that not for her own virtue is she to be pronounced blessed, but she assigns the cause, saying, For he that is mighty hath magnified me.

AUGUSTINE. (sup.) What great things hath He done unto thee? I believe that a creature thou gavest birth to the Creator, a servant thou broughtest forth the Lord, that through thee God redeemed the world, through thee He restored it to life.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. But where are the great things, if they be not that I still a virgin conceive (by the will of God) overcoming nature? I have been accounted worthy, without being joined to a husband, to be made a mother, not a mother of any one, but of the only-begotten Saviour.

BEDE. But this has reference to the beginning of the hymn, where it is said, My soul doth magnify the Lord. For that soul can alone magnify the Lord with due praise, for whom he deigus to do mighty things.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. But she says, that is mighty, that if men should disbelieve the work of her conception, namely, that while yet a virgin, she conceived, she might throw back the miracles upon the power of the Worker. Nor because the only-begotten Son has come to a woman is He thereby defiled, for holy is his name.

BASIL. (in Ps. 33.) But holy is the name of God called, not because in its letters it contains any significant power, but because in whatever way we look at God we distinguish his purity and holiness.

BEDE. For in the height of His marvellous power He is far beyond every creature, and is widely removed from all the works of His hands. This is better understood in the Greek tongue, in which the very word which means holy, (ἅγιον) signifies as it were to be “apart from the earth.”


LUKE 1:50

50. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

COMMENTARY

BEDE. Turning from God’s special gifts to His general dealings, she describes the condition of the whole human race, And his mercy is from generation to generation on them that fear him. As if she said, Not only for me hath He that is mighty done great things, but in every nation he that feareth God is accepted by Him.

ORIGEN. For the mercy of God is not upon one generation, but extends to eternity from generation to generation.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Victor Pres.) According to the mercy which He hath upon generations of generations, I conceive, and He Himself is united to a living body, out of mercy alone undertaking our salvation. Nor is His mercy shewn indiscriminately, but upon those who are constrained by the fear of Him in every nation; as it is said, upon those who fear him, that is, upon those who being brought by repentance are turned to faith and renewal for the obstinate unbelievers have by their sin shut against themselves the gate of mercy.

THEOPHYLACT. Or by this she means that they who fear shall obtain mercy, both in that generation, (that is, the present world,) and the generation which is to come, (i. e. the life everlasting.) For now they receive a hundred-fold, but hereafter far more. (Matt. 19:29.)


LUKE 1:51

51. He hath shewed strength with his arm, he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

COMMENTARY

BEDE. In describing the state of mankind, she shews what the proud deserve, and what the humble; saying, He hath shewed strength with his arm, &c. i. e. with the very Son of God. For as your arm is that whereby you work, so the arm of God is said to be His word by whom He made the world.

ORIGEN. But to those that fear Him, He hath done mighty things with His arm; though thou comest weak to God, if thou hast feared Him thou shalt obtain the promised strength.

THEOPHYLACT. For in His arm, that is, His incarnate Son, He hath shewed strength, seeing that nature was vanquished, a virgin bringing forth, and God becoming man.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Photius.) Or she says, Hath shewed, for will shew strength, not as long ago by the hand of Moses against the Egyptians, nor as by the Angel, (when he slew many thousand of the rebel Assyrians,) nor by any other instrument save His own power, He openly triumphed, overcoming spiritual (intelligibiles) enemies. Hence it follows, he hath scattered, &c. that is to say, every heart that was puffed up and not obedient to His coming He hath laid bare, and exposed the wickedness of their proud thoughts.

CYRIL OF JERUSALEM. But these words may be more appropriately taken to refer to the hostile ranks of the evil spirits. For they were raging on the earth, when our Lord’s coming put them to flight, and restored those whom they had bound, to His obedience.

THEOPHYLACT. This might also be understood of the Jews whom He scattered into all lands as they are now scattered.


LUKE 1:52

52. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

COMMENTARY

BEDE. The words, He hath shewed strength with his arm, and those which went before, And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation, must be joined to this verse by a comma only. For truly through all generations of the world, by a merciful and just administration of Divine power, the proud do not cease to fall, and the humble to be exalted. As it is said, He hath put down the mighty from their seat, he hath exalted the humble and meek.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. The mighty in knowledge were the evil spirits, the Devil, the wise ones of the Gentiles, the Scribes and Pharisees; yet these He hath put down, and raised up those who humbled themselves under the mighty hand of God (1 Pet. 5:6); giving them the power of treading upon serpents and scorpions and every power of the enemy. (Luke 10:19.) The Jews were also at one time puffed up with power, but unbelief slew them, and the mean and lowly of the Gentiles have through faith climbed up to the highest summit.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Macarius ex Serm. 1.) For our understanding is acknowledged to be the judgment-seat of God, but after the transgression, the powers of evil took their seat in the heart of the first man as on their own throne. For this reason then the Lord came and cast out the evil spirits from the seat of our will, and raised up those who were vanquished by devils, purging their consciences, and making their hearts his own dwelling place.


LUKE 1:53

53. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

COMMENTARY

GLOSS. (non occ.) Because human prosperity seems to consist chiefly in the honours of the mighty and the abundance of their riches, after speaking of the casting down of the mighty, and the exalting of the humble, he goes on to tell of the impoverishing of the rich and the filling of the poor, He hath filled the hungry, &c.

BASIL. (ubi sup.) These words regulate our conduct even with respect to sensible things, teaching the uncertainty of all worldly possessions, which are as shortlived as the wave which is dashed about to and fro by the violence of the wind. But spiritually all mankind suffered hunger except the Jews; for they possessed the treasures of legal tradition and the teachings of the holy prophets. But because they did not rest humbly on the Incarnate Word, they were sent away empty, carrying nothing with them, neither faith nor knowledge, and were bereft of the hope of good things, being shut out both of the earthly Jerusalem, and the life to come. But those of the Gentiles, who were brought low by hunger and thirst, because they clung to the Lord, were filled with spiritual goods.

GLOSS. (ordin.) They also who desire eternal life with their whole soul, as it were hungering after it, shall be filled when Christ shall appear in glory; but they who rejoice in earthly things, shall at the end be sent away emptied of all happiness.


LUKE 1:54-55

54. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

55. As he spake to our fathers, Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

COMMENTARY

GLOSS. (non occ.) After a general mention of the Divine mercy and holiness, the Virgin changes the subject to the strange and marvellous dispensation of the new incarnation, saying, He hath holpen his servant Israel, &c. as a physician relieves the sick, becoming visible among men, that He might make Israel (i. e. him who sees God) His servant.

BEDE. That is, obedient and humble; for he who disdains to be made humble, cannot be saved.

BASIL. (non occ.) For by Israel she means not Israel after the flesh, whom their own title made noble, but the spiritual Israel, which retained the name of faith, straining their eyes to see God by faith.

THEOPHYLACT. (vide etiam Tit. Bost.) It might also be applied to Israel after the flesh, seeing that out of that body multitudes believed. But this He did remembering His mercy, for He hath fulfilled what He promised to Abraham, saying, For in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. (Gen. 12:3.) This promise then the mother of God called to mind, saying, As he spake to our father Abraham; (Gen. 17:12.) for it was said to Abraham, I will place my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, for an eternal covenant, that I shall be thy God, and the God of thy seed after thee.

BEDE. But by seed he means not so much those who are begotten in the flesh, as those who have followed the steps of Abraham’s faith, to whom the Saviour’s coming was promised for evermore.

GLOSS. (ordin.) For this promise of heritage shall not be narrowed by any limits, but to the very end of time there shall never lack believers, the glory of whose happiness shall be everlasting.


LUKE 1:56

56. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

COMMENTARY

AMBROSE. Mary abode with Elisabeth until she had accomplished the time of her bringing forth; as it is said, And Mary abode, &c.

THEOPHYLACT. For in the sixth month of the conception of the forerunner, the Angel came to Mary, and she abode with Elisabeth three months, and so the nine months are completed.

AMBROSE. Now it was not only for the sake of friendship that she abode so long, but for the increase also of so great a prophet. For if at her first coming the child had so far advanced, that at the salutation of Mary he leaped in the womb, and his mother was filled with the Holy Spirit, how much must we suppose the presence of the Virgin Mary to have added during the experience of so long a time? Rightly then is she represented as having shewn kindness to Elisabeth, and preserved the mystical number.

BEDE. For the chaste soul which conceives a desire of the spiritual word must of necessity submit to the yoke of heavenly discipline, and sojourning for the days as it were of three months in the same place, cease not to persevere until it is illuminated by the light of faith, hope, and charity.

THEOPHYLACT. But when Elisabeth was going to bring forth, the Virgin departed, as it follows, And she returned; or, probably because of the multitude, who were about to assemble at the birth. But it became not a virgin to be present on such an occasion.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Metaphrastes.) For it is the custom for virgins to go away when the pregnant woman brings forth. But when she reached her own home, she went to no other place, but abode there until she knew the time of her delivery was at hand. And Joseph doubting, is instructed by an Angel.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.

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