Aquinas Day by Day: The Angelís Salutation to Mary
Tuesday, January 1, 2013 All Day
Aquinas’s Topic: The Angel’s Salutation to Mary
Scripture: Luke 1: 28: “Hail, full of grace.”
Church Calendar: Feast of Mary the Mother of God
Text of Aquinas: Sermon, originally delivered in Italian to the common folk of Naples, Lent 1273.
This salutation has three parts. The angel composed the first part, namely, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women,” while Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, composed the second part, namely, “blessed is the fruit of your womb.” But the Church added the third part, namely, “Mary,” for the angel did not say “Hail Mary,” but “Hail, full of grace.” But the interpretation of the name “Mary” is in accord with the words of the angel, as will become clear.
Now about the first part one must consider that in ancient days it was especially important that angels appeared to humans, and that humans pay them reverence was held to be most praiseworthy. For it was written in praise of Abraham that he received angels with hospitality and paid reverence to them. But that an angel would pay reverence to a human was never heard of, until one made this salutation to the Blessed Virgin, reverently saying, “Hail.”
The reason why in ancient days no angel paid reverence to a human but the human paid reverence to the angel is because an angel is greater than a human, in three respects: first, in dignity, second, in familiarity with God and third, in owing to its pre-eminence in the full splendor of divine grace. Therefore, it was not right for an angel to pay reverence to a human until someone should be found in the human race who would exceed the angels in these three ways. And this was the Blessed Virgin.
Therefore, in order to give a sign that she exceed him in these three ways, the angel decided to pay reverence to her and so said “Hail.” Consequently, the Blessed Virgin exceeds the angels in these three ways: first in fullness of grace, which is greater in the Blessed Virgin than in any angel; second she exceeds the angels in her familiarity with God; and third she exceeds the angels in her purity.
She was immune from every curse and therefore is “blessed among women,” for she alone withstood the curse and bore the blessing and opened the gate of paradise. Consequently, appropriate for her is the name “Mary,” which is interpreted as “star of the sea,” since just as by the star of the sea sailors are directed to their port, so by Mary are Christians directed to their glory.
||UST Center for Thomistic Studies, Introductions and translations © R.E. Houser