Saint Luke’s Gospel: Mary’s Divine Motherhood

Saint Luke’s Gospel: Mary’s Divine Motherhood

In Saint Luke’s gospel, the angel of the Annunciation reveals the divine nature of the child using Jewish cultural references, by saying that Mary is like the meeting tent or the Arch of the Covenant, in other words the place of the divine presence. In that context, we are assured that the expressions « Son of the Most High» (Lk 1: 32) and «Son of God» (Lk 1: 35) hold a deep meaning. In the same way, in the story of the Visitation, the expression «the mother of my Lord» (Lk 1: 43) is a powerful one also.

Lk 1: 35 Mary, the new meeting tent

Many exegetes think that Lk 1: 35 has some affinity with Exodus 40: 34-35. The connections between Lk 1: 35 and Ex 40: 34-35 are the following:


  • Gospel of Luke: The Holy Spirit, who is the Power of the Most High, descends and covers Mary with his shadow. Therefore she will give life in her womb to the one who will be called the "Son of God."
  • Exodus: The cloud, a symbol of God’s presence, covers and overshadows the meeting tent which is filled with God’s Glory.

About these representations, cf Ex 16: 10; 19: 9; Nm 9: 15-22; 10: 36; 1Rom 8: 10-12 (= 2 Cor 5: 13-6, 2)…


The meaning of these parallels is the equivalence between "God’s Glory" and the expression "the Holy One, the Son of God." In other words, the child who will be born of Mary will have a divine nature. The titles of "Holy" and "Son of God" must be understood in their full sense (cf. Lk 1: 39-44; 56).

Mary, the New Ark

The story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (Lk 1: 39-44; 56) seems to be modeled after 2 Sam 6: 2-16, which relates the transfer of the Ark of the Covenant from Baala of Judah to Jerusalem. Commentaries mention these contact points between the two passages:

1. The ark and Mary’s journey take place in the country of Judah.

2. In both episodes a great manifestation of joy occurs.

3. David and the people on one hand, Elizabeth on the other, shout for joy. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and "cried out in a loud voice": the verb anaphoeô, used in Lk 1: 42, is normally used exclusively for liturgical acclamations, especially those that accompany the transfer of the ark. The sacred clamor of the people before the ark is now Elizabeth’s shout of joy in knowing, through the Holy Spirit, that she stands before the ark of the New Covenant, Mary who carries in her womb the presence of God made flesh.

4. The presence of the ark in the house of Obed-Edom (1 Sam 6: 10, 11a) and the presence of Mary in the house of Zachary (Lk 1: 40a) represent causes of blessing.

5. A holy fear penetrates David as well as Elizabeth.

6. The ark stays in the house of Obed- Edom for about three months (2 Sam 6: 11) and Mary stays with her aged relative "about three months" (Lk 1: 56).

Mary is like the ark of the Covenant, which is the place of God’ dwelling.

Other expressions of Jesus’ divinity

"He shall be great," the angel had told Mary (Lk 1: 32)

In the Old Testament, the epithet "great" is reserved for God. The prerogative of being the "Holy One, the Son of God" (Lk 1: 35) are the effect of the Spirit’s intervention in the Virgin’s womb.

"The Mother of my Lord" (Lk 1: 43)

Elizabeth honors Mary as the mother of the King-Messiah. But the near and far context forces us to understand the title of "Lord" in a transcendent-divine sense.



Excerpts from: A.SERRA,  "Madre di Dio", nel Nuovo dizionario di mariologia, a cura di de Fiores, ed. san Paolo 1985, p.729-730.


Father Serra