1999 July/Questions

  1. What were Our Lady’s thoughts at the Annunciation?

Why did Our Lady ask the angel at the Annunciation: How can that be for I know not man? Was it because she was unaware of the prophecies that the Mother of the Saviour would not need to “know man” but would remain a virgin, or was it because she was testing the apparition to know if it came from God?

  1. In Pars III, Q. 30, Art. 4 of his Summa, St. Thomas Aquinas gives the answer: “Ambrose says explicitly on Luke I, 34, that the Blessed Virgin did not doubt the angel’s words. For he says:Mary’s answer is more temperate than the words of the priest[Zachary]. She says: How shall this be? He replies: Whereby shall I know this? He denies that he knows this [the conception of John the Baptist]. She does not doubt fulfilment when she asks how it shall be done.

Augustine, however, seems to assert that she doubted. For he says: To Mary, in doubt about the conception, the angel declares the possibility thereof. But such doubt is one of wonder rather than of unbelief. And so the angel adduces a proof [that her cousin is with child], not as a cure for unbelief, but in order to remove her astonishment.”

From this answer it is clear that:

  1. a) Our Lady knew the angel was a genuine messenger of God, and
  2. b) she did not doubt his words. Her question was one of marvelling astonishment, accompanied with a perfectly legitimate desire of knowinghowexactly she was to become the mother of tie Messiah, since she had made a vow of perpetual virginity.
  1. When did the three Kings actually reach the Holy Family?

How long did the Holy Family live in the stable at Bethlehem, because the three Kings apparently arrived months (perhaps a year) after Christmas? Did they then visit Baby Jesus when the Holy Family had already returned to Nazareth?

  1. From Herod’s instruction to his soldiers to kill every child under two years of age, it is clear that Our Lord was at least a year old or thereabouts when the three Kings visited him. It makes sense that St. Joseph would have found some more permanent accommodation and employment in Bethlehem, with the intention of staying there indefinitely, since he knew of the prophecy that stated that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. There is no indication that the three Kings ever returned to Palestine after their first visit.


  1. Please explain God’s reasons in the Fifth Joyful Mystery.

At the finding of the child Jesus in the Temple, He said: “Did you not know that I had to be about my Father’s business?” What in this “business’ was so vitally important to necessitate such concern and sorrow in respect of Our Lady that:

  • the “business” took only three days and never needed to be repeated, and
  • it could not be done with the knowledge of Our Lady and St. Joseph.

I understand the Fathers of the Church say that Jesus was preparing His Mother for being without Him for three days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. Is three days such a long time? Our Lady did surely know that Jesus would rise from the dead!

  1. In what I have read on this subject, there were two reasons for Our Lord remaining in Jerusalem as He did.

Firstly, He gave the religious authorities of the Jews the occasion to understand the true nature of the mission of the Messiah. Through a misreading of the Old Testament, the Jews expected a political redeemer, rather on the lines of Judas Maccabee, who would free the Jews from their subjection to the Romans and make Israel a powerful, independent nation. Jesus joined the instruction class habitually given in Temple colonnades, where the Old Testament was explained and the students could ask questions. Christ, a young boy with no scholarly background, must have created a great stir by posing questions that showed a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and which, by citing the relevant passages, pointed out the true redemptive mission of the Messiah. Something like this would stick in the minds of those attending and would not be forgotten by them when Christ began His public preaching twenty years later. In other words, the Jews would not have been able to claim invincible ignorance as an excuse for their misunderstanding of Christ’s mission.

By not telling Our Lady and St. Joseph what He was doing Christ put their Faith to the test. It is something that sooner or later God does with every rational creature, to ask acceptance of something that does not make sense. The test of the angels involved an act of obedience over something that they could not understand. The test of Adam and Eve was similar: God put a fruit tree (meant for eating) in a garden full of fruit trees (all available far eating), and then told them not to eat of it. It is because they refused to accept what they could not understand that they fell. The Finding in the Temple was a similar test for Mary and Joseph, and a much more meritorious test since it involved something not only incomprehensible for them, but also painful. Their joy in this Mystery came from their passing the test and being given a great increase in God’s grace. If we can trust God in the same way in His dealings with us, we can count on having the same joy they had.


  1. Did the devil know that Jesus was the promised Messiah?

In the 54?day Novena, it says that the devil showed Jesus in the Agony of the Garden all the souls who would go to Hell. Is this correct? If so, did the devil then know that Jesus was the Messiah? If so, at what point did he find out?

  1. There is no definitive statement by the Church as to what extent the devil knew just who Christ was. However, from the Scriptures one can make some surmises.

Firstly, the devil did not know that Christ was, in the strict sense, the Son of God. If he had, he would not have bothered trying to tempt Him in the desert (why try to make God sin?).

Secondly, the devil had a perfect knowledge of the Old Testament, shown by his quoting it to Christ, and he knew the passages relating to the redemption: “by his strokes we are healed”, “he has carried the sins of us all”, etc. However, there is no reason to believe he had a perfect knowledge of just what the redemption entailed, for example that it would open heaven to the souls of the just.

My personal impression is that he hesitated between preventing the redemptive work of the Messiah which involved the Messiah’s death on the one hand, and removing Christ from the scene by death before he performed any more cures and exorcisms and converted any more people, on the other. According to some writers, the penny finally dropped for him at the last moment, at which point he tried to use Pilate’s wife to stop Pilate condemning Jesus to death, but by then it was too late. The hatred the devil had incited in the Jews was too strong and carried the day, and the redemption was achieved.