As the new ‘daughter of Zion’, Mary represents all humanity,
called to the marriage banquet which celebrates God’s Covenant with
"The three reasons for the invitation to joy: God's saving
presence among his people, the coming of the messianic king and
gratuitous and superabundant fruitfulness, find their fulfilment in
Mary", the Holy Father said at the General Audience of Wednesday, 1
May, as he reflected on the angel's greeting to Mary at the Annunciation
and Mary's role as the new "daughter of Zion" . Here is a
translation of his catechesis, which was the 18th in the series on the
Blessed Virgin and was given in Italian.
1. At the time of the Annunciation, Mary, the "exalted daughter
of Zion" (Lumen gentium, n. 55), is greeted by the angel as
the representative of humanity, called to give her own consent to the
Incarnation of the Son of God.
The first word the angel addresses to her is an invitation to joy: chaire,
that is, "rejoice". The Greek term has been translated in
Latin with "Ave", a simple expression of greeting which does
not seem to correspond fully to the divine messenger's intentions and
the context in which the meeting takes place.
Of course, chaire was also a form of greeting frequently used
by the Greeks, but the extraordinary circumstances in which it is
uttered have nothing to do with the atmosphere of an habitual meeting.
In fact, we must not forget that the angel is aware of bringing an
announcement that is unique in human history: thus a simple, normal
greeting would be out of place. Instead, the reference to the original
meaning of the expression chaire, which is "rejoice",
seems more suitable for this exceptional occasion.
As the Greek Fathers in particular constantly pointed out, citing
various prophetic oracles, the invitation to joy is especially
appropriate for the announcement of the Messiah's coming.
Rejoice, for the Lord has done great things
2. Our thoughts turn first of all to the Prophet Zephaniah.
The text of the Annunciation shows a significant parallelism with
his oracle: "Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!" (Zep
3:14). There is the invitation to joy: "Rejoice and exult with all
your heart" (v. 14). Mention is made of the Lord's presence:
"The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst" (v. 15).
There is the exhortation not to be afraid: "Do not fear, O Zion,
let not your hands grow weak" (v. 16). Finally, there is the
promise of God's saving intervention: "The Lord your God is in your
midst, a warrior who gives victory" (v. 17). The comparisons are so
numerous and regular that they lead one to recognize Mary as the new
"daughter of Zion", who has full reason to rejoice because God
has decided to fulfil his plan of salvation.
A similar invitation to joy, even if it is in a different context,
comes from Joel's prophecy: "Fear not, O land; be glad and
rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!... You shall know that I am
in the midst of Israel" (Jl 2:21-27).
3. Also significant is the oracle of Zechariah, cited
in connection with Jesus' entry into Jerusalem (Mt 21:5; Jn 12:15). In
it the reason for joy is seen in the coming of the Messianic king:
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of
Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he,
humble ... and he shall command peace to the nations" (Zec 9:9-10).
Finally, the announcement of joy to the new Zion springs, in the Book
of Isaiah, from its numerous posterity, a sign of divine
blessing: "Sing O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into
singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the
children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that
is married, says the Lord" (Is 54:1).
The three reasons for the invitation to joy: God's saving presence
among his people, the coming of the messianic king and gratuitous and
superabundant fruitfulness, find their fulfilment in Mary. They justify
the pregnant meaning attributed by Tradition to the angel's greeting. By
inviting her to give her assent to the fulfilment of the messianic
promise and announcing to her the most high dignity of being Mother of
the Lord, the angel could not but invite her to rejoice. Indeed, as the
Council reminds us: "After a long period of waiting the times are
fulfilled in her, the exalted daughter of Zion, and the new plan of
salvation is established, when the Son of God has taken human nature
from her, that he might in the mysteries of his flesh free man from
sin" (Lumen gentium, n. 55).
4. The account of the Annunciation allows us to recognize in Mary the
new "daughter of Zion", invited by God to deep joy. It
expresses her extraordinary role as mother of the Messiah, indeed, as
mother of the Son of God. The Virgin accepts the message on behalf of
the people of David, but we can say that she accepts it on behalf of all
humanity, because the Old Testament extended the role of the Davidic
Messiah to all nations (cf. Ps 2:8; 71 :8). In the divine intention,
the announcement addressed to her looks to universal salvation.
Mary welcomes joy foretold by prophets
To confirm this universal perspective of God's plan, we can recall
several Old and New Testament texts which compare salvation to a great
feast for all peoples on Mount Zion (cf. Is 25:6f.) and which announce
the final banquet of God's kingdom (cf. Mt 22:1-10).
As "daughter of Zion", Mary is the Virgin of the Covenant
which God establishes with all humanity. Mary's representational role in
this event is clear. And it is significant that it is a woman who
carries out this function.
5. As the new "daughter of Zion", Mary in fact is
particularly suited to entering into the spousal Covenant with God. More
and better than any member of the Chosen People, she can offer the Lord
the true heart of a Bride.
With Mary, "daughter of Zion" is not merely a collective
subject, but a person who represents humanity and, at the moment of the
Annunciation, she responds to the proposal of divine love with her own
spousal love. Thus she welcomes in a quite special way the joy foretold
by the prophecies, a joy which reaches its peak here in the fulfilment
of God's plan.