Ave Maria Meditations
The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
”All hail,” said he, “O lowly maiden Mary.”
“For know a blessed Mother you shall be,
All generations praise continually,
Your Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold.”
Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
“To me be as it pleases God,” she said,
“My soul shall laud and magnify His holy name.”
The salutation to Mary (Lk 1:28-32) is modeled closely on Zephaniah 3: 14- 17: Mary is the daughter Zion addressed there, summoned to “rejoice”, informed that the Lord is coming to her. Her fear is removed, since the Lord is in her midst to save her. One understands why Mary was so frightened by this message (Lk 1:29). Her fear comes not from lack of understanding nor from that small-hearted anxiety to which some would like to reduce it. It comes from the trepidation of that encounter with God, that immeasurable joy which can make the most hardened natures quake.” In the address of the angel, the underlying motif in the Lucan portrait of Mary surfaces: she is in person the true Zion, toward whom hopes have yearned throughout all the devastations of history. She is the true Israel in whom Old and New Covenant, Israel and Church, are indivisibly one. She is the “people of God” bearing fruit through God’s gracious power.
Finally, we must pay attention to the terms in which the mystery of the new conception and birth is deliberately stated: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. In the so-called parallelismus membrorum two images of the ineffable mystery from different strands of the tradition are here meshed. The first image alludes to the history of creation (Gen 1:2) and so characterizes the event as a new creation: this God who called being out of nothingness, whose Spirit hovered over the abyss, he who as “creator Spirit” is the ground of all beings-this God discloses new creation from within the old creation.
In this way the radical incision which Christ’s coming signifies is most emphatically marked; its novelty is of such an order that it penetrates to the ground of being and can derive from nowhere if not from the creative power of God himself. The second image-“the power of the Most High will overshadow you” -belongs to the theology of Israel’s cult; it refers to the cloud which overshadows the temple and thereby indicates the presence of God. Mary appears as the sacred tent over whom God’s hidden presence becomes effective.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Daughter Zion)