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The MOST Theological Collection: Mary in Our Life

"Appendix II: Mary's Knowledge of the Divinity of Christ at the Time of the Annunciation"

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The traditional view, and the view held today by the vast majority of theologians, is that Mary knew of the divinity of Christ at the time of the Annunciation. Since some few have doubted this face, however, let us examine the evidence.

First of all, Mary certainly knew the Old Testament prophecies about the Messias. Among these, Ps. 109:1 spoke of Him as "Lord" and Isa. 9:6-7 (quoted in chap. II) called Him "God the Mighty." It is clear that the Hebrew adonai ("Lord") could be used of creatures, and it seems that el gibbor ("God the Mighty") was so used, once, in Ezech. 32:21. Yet, since el is one of the normal words for God, and adonai similarly is a normal word for Lord in the divine sense, it is hard to suppose that the Holy Spirit, the true author of Scripture, when speaking of the Messias who as a matter of fact is God, would mean them in some other sense. Now if the Holy Spirit meant divinity by these words, then, although many Jews did not understand, surely Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, full of grace and the light of grace, would be unlikely to miss the meaning. St. Paul, in the first twelve verses of the Epistle to the Hebrews, was able to see that the divinity of Christ is spoken of in several other verses of the psalms: how could Mary, with her surpassing grace, fail to see what St. Paul saw? Although St. Paul is great, his grace is incomparably less than that of the Mother of the Messias. Would a fact pertaining so closely to her mission be revealed to an apostle, but withheld from the Queen of the Apostles?

She could have learned of His divinity more easily from the words of Gabriel, for he spoke of Christ as "the Son of the Most High" and said that "he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever" (Luke 1:32) and also called Him "the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Now the expressions "Son of God" and "Son of the Most High" could, of themselves, stand for an adoptive son, but in the contest they obviously mean the true natural Son of God. For vs. 32 states that Christ "shall reign ... forever," and only God can be king forever. In Ps. 88:38 the promise was made that David's throne, his line, would endure forever—but here the angel does not say that the throne of the Messias will endure forever, but that "He shall reign ... forever."

Furthermore, numerous Fathers of the Church interpret the "adoration" of the Magi as a recognition of the divinity of Christ. The liturgy of Epiphany and its octave is full of this thought and of patristic tests giving this view. Now how could we suppose that the Magi would know of the divinity of Christ so soon, if Mary herself could not recognize the clear indications in the Old Testament prophecies and in the words of Gabriel? The Magi hat not hat these advantages.

The objection is sometimes raises that Mary did not understand the words of Christ in the temple at the age of twelve, but it is not necessary to suppose that every detail was revealed to her. If she knew His divinity, and the general divine plan of keeping Him hidden until the age of thirty, she court easily wonder at this departure from the general plan.

Another objection argues that Mary would have to understand the mystery of the Blessed Trinity (not revealed in the Old Testament) to know the divinity of Christ. But the Three Persons are dearly mentioned in the words of the Archangel: Christ is said to be the "Son of the Most High"—an indication of the first two Persons. And He is to be conceived when "the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee"—the Third Person.

Finally, it would be surprising indeed if Mary did not know of her Son's divinity at this time. She would have had to miss or misunderstand so many texts that are dear enough in themselves. After all, it does not seem that any very extraordinary grace would be needed to show her their clear meaning—and how could we suppose that such a grace would be withheld from her who was full of grace?

See also Marian Studies (Mariological Society of America, Washington, 1952), III, 122-25, and further references there; and P. F. Ceuppens, O.P., De Mariologia Biblica (2nd ed.; Turin, 1951), pp. 67-68, 76-77.

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