Daily Devotional for January 22 – 28
Reading from Luke with commentary from the Navarre Commentary
Luke 1: Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which [a]have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having [b]had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
NC: “He does not tell Theophilus new things, things he did not previously know; he undertakes to tell him the truth concerning the things in which he has already been instructed. This he does so that you can know everything you have been told about the Lord and his doings” (St Bede)
After referring to the noble ancestry of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the evangelist now speaks of a higher type of nobility, the nobility of virtue: “Both were righteous before God”. “For not everyone who is righteous in men’s eyes is righteous in God’s; men have one way of seeing and God another; men see externals, but God sees into the heart. It can happen that someone seems righteous because his virtue is false and is practised to win people’s approval; but he is not virtuous in God’s sight if his righteousness is not born of simplicity of soul but is only simulated in order to appear good.
Prayer: O my God I firmly believe that Thou art one God in three Divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; I believe that Thy Divine Son became man, and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, who canst neither deceive nor be deceived. (Act of Faith)
Luke 1:8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, [c]his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
NC: Within the sacred precincts, in a walled-off area, stood the Temple proper. Rectangular in form, there was first a large area which was called “the Holy Place”, in which was located the altar of incense referred to in v.9. Behind this was the inner sanctum, called “the Holy of Holies”, where the Ark of the Covenant with the tablets of the Law used to be kept; only the High Priest had access to this, the most sacred part of the Temple. The veil or great curtain of the Temple separated these two areas from one another. The sacred building was surrounded by a courtyard, called the courtyard of the priests and outside this, at the front of the Temple, was what was called the courtyard of the Israelites, where the people stayed during the ceremony of incensing.
Angels arc pure spirits, that is, they have no body of any kind; therefore, “they do not appear to men exactly as they are; rather, they manifest themselves in forms which God gives them so that they can be seen by those to whom he sends them” (St John Damascene, De fide orthodoxa, 2, 3).
In addition to adoring and serving God, angelic spirits act as God’s messengers and as channels of his Providence towards men; this explains why they appear so often in salvation history and why Sacred Scripture refers to them in so many passages (cf., for example, Heb 1:14).
Prayer: Having risen from sleep I hasten to Thee, O Lord, Lover of men, and by Thy loving-kindness I strive to do Thy work, and I pray to Thee: help me at all times, in everything, and deliver me from every evil thing of the world and every attack of the devil, and lead me into Thine eternal Kingdom. For Thou art my Creator, the Giver and Provider of everything good, and all my hope is in Thee, and to Thee I send up glory, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
*Prayer for the next day’s morning
Luke 1:18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you [d]these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
23 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. 24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
NC: Zechariah’s incredulity and his sin lie not in his doubting that this message has come from God but in forgetting that God is almighty, and in thinking that he and Elizabeth are past having children. Later, referring to the conception of John the Baptist, the same angel explains to Mary that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk 1:37). When God asks us to take part in any undertaking we should rely on his omnipotence rather than our own meagre resources.
Prayer: Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears! Turn, then, O most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Luke 1:26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; [e]blessed are you among women!”
29 But [f]when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
NC: This privilege, granted to our Lady, of being a virgin and a mother at the same time is a unique gift of God. This was the work of the Holy Spirit who at the conception and the birth of the Son so favoured the Virgin Mother as to impart fruitfulness to her while preserving inviolate her perpetual virginity” (Catechism of the Council of Trent,)
Although many suggestions have been made as to what the name Mary means, most of the best scholars seem to agree that Mary means “lady”. However, no single meaning fully conveys the richness of the name.
Prayer: Queen of Heaven rejoice, alleluia: For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia, Has risen as He said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia. Because the Lord is truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray : O God, who by the Resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, granted joy to the whole world: grant we beg Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may lay hold of the joys of eternal life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Luke 1:34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I [g]do not know a man?”
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”
38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
NC: “Hail, full of grace”: literally the Greek text reads “Rejoice!”, obviously referring to a unique joy, over the news which the angel is about to communicate.
The Annunciation is the moment when our Lady is given to know the vocation which God planned for her from eternity. When the archangel sets her mind at ease by saying “Do not be afraid, Mary,” he is helping her to overcome that initial fear which a person normally experiences when God gives him or her a special calling. The fact that Mary felt this fear does not imply the least trace of imperfection in her: hers is a perfectly natural reaction in the face of the supernatural. Imperfection would arise if one did not overcome this fear or rejected the advice of those in a position to help — as St Gabriel helped Mary.
Once she learns of God’s plan, our Lady yields to God’s will with prompt obedience, unreservedly. She realizes the disproportion between what she is going to become — the Mother of God — and what she is — a woman. However, this is what God wants to happen and for him nothing is impossible, and therefore no one should stand in his way. So Mary, combining humility and obedience, responds perfectly to God’s call: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word”.
Prayer: The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary. And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death.
Luke 1:39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who [h]believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
NC: On learning from the angel that her cousin St Elizabeth is soon to give birth and is in need of support, our Lady in her charity hastens to her aid. She has no regard for the difficulties this involves. Although we do not know where exactly Elizabeth was living (it is now thought to be Ain Karim), it c certainly meant a journey into the hill country which at that time would have taken four days.
From Mary’s visit to Elizabeth Christians should learn to be caring people. “If we have this filial contact with Mary, we won’t be able to think just about ourselves and our problems. Selfish personal problems will find no place in our mind” (J. Escrivá)
St Bede comments that Elizabeth blesses Mary using the same words as the archangel “to show that she should be honoured by angels and by men and why she should indeed be revered above all other women”
Prayer: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that, we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord.
Luke 1:46 And Mary said:
“My soul [i]magnifies the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
NC: Three stanzas may be distinguished in the canticle: in the first (vv. 46-50) Mary glorifies God for making her the Mother of the Saviour, which is why future generations will call her blessed; she shows that the Incarnation is a mysterious expression of God’s power and holiness and mercy. In the second (v. 5 1-53) she teaches us that the Lord has always had a preference for the humble, resisting the proud and boastful. In the third (vv. 54-5 5) she proclaims that God, in keeping with his promise, has always taken special care of his chosen people — and now does them the greatest honour of all by becoming a Jew (cf. Rom 1:3).
“Our prayer can accompany and imitate this prayer of Mary. Like her, we feel the desire to sing, to acclaim the wonders of God, so that all mankind and all creation may share our joy” (J. Escrivá)
Prayer: May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.